March 21st, 2014

anti-cult tendencies in the 70s along with sodomy and custody laws

I'm writing a story, and I've been doing some reading and research about cults/communes/compounds/collectives during the 70s in the US. However, I have a few questions, and a lot relate to the government, sodomy laws, and custody laws.

My story is tentatively set in Virginia right now, during 1976.

My questions:

-How serious were government attempts to infiltrate and break apart cults in the mid to late 70s (US)? I get the sense that it was taken fairly seriously but I just wanted to make sure.

-I have a female character with a baby girl; her ex-husband was very abusive, and so this woman left him. At some point during this story she needs to go to a psychiatric hospital, and I thought that the ~cult/commune~ members would be very worried about the ex-husband trying to take the child during her stay. Is this feasible? What were custody laws like for women who had to go to psych hospitals? Would the commune-livers have been considered kidnappers? From what I've been able to understand, that WOULD have been considered kidnappers, but I was just wondering if someone could expound on it.

-I have a few gay/bisexual/queer characters in my story, and I would like to know how seriously sodomy laws were considered during the late 70s (76-79, basically). I know some of these laws were being repealed at this time, but how seriously were offenders prosecuted if they did violate the laws? In this story specifically men are going to be at risk for government interaction, though all sodomy laws are in question here.

I appreciate all your help! Thanks for reading, folks.


Edited to add, for clarity: I am in fact writing about a commune that will be assumed to be a cult and therefore treated as something frightening or dangerous, if that helps to explain some of my prior questions.
In regards to the second query, the father of the baby girl is an outsider, and when the mother fled him she went to the commune for safety.