RICHMOND - Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is fighting a U.S. circuit court ruling that last month overturned the state's anti-sodomy law.

Cuccinelli, a candidate for governor, said a three-judge panel ruled erroneously when it struck down in a 2-1 decision the state's long standing "Crimes Against Nature" law that bans non-vaginal sex between consenting adults, gay or straight.

Cuccinelli is now petitioning the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to bring the issue before the full 15-judge court for reconsideration, his office confirmed Wednesday.

The appeals court was ruling on the 2005 case of a 47-year-old Virginia man who was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and for criminal solicitation of a 17-year-old girl to commit sodomy.

The man appealed the case noting that his felony conviction for sodomy was invalid because the sex was consensual. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that most anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli's office said they were asking the court to reconsider the case because it involved a repeated sexual offender and not the sex acts he committed.

Fighting sex offenders throughout the commonwealth has been one of the top missions of Cuccinelli's office the past four years.

"This case is not about sexual orientation, but using current law to protect a 17-year-old girl from a 47 year-old sexual predator," said Cuccinelli spokeswoman Caroline Gibson. "We agree with the dissenting opinion that the petitioner was not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief and the full court should have the opportunity to decide this matter. The attorney general is committed to protecting Virginia's children from predators who attempt to exploit them and rob them of their childhood."

The Washington Blade, a newspaper that focus on gay news, first reported that Cuccinelli's office filed a petition with the appeals court March 26.

In the past, Cuccinelli has supported anti-sodomy laws. While a candidate for attorney general in 2009, the Republican said those sexual acts are "not healthy to society."

"My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong," Cuccinelli said at the time. "They're intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law-based country it's appropriate to have policies that reflect that."

Cuccinelli is well-liked among Christian conservatives for the strong stances he has taken on hot button issues like gay rights and abortion. But his Democratic opponent this fall, Terry McAuliffe, has repeatedly criticized those positions as out of touch with mainstream Virginia voters.

A spokesman for McAuliffe said the attorney general's petition in the sodomy case "is just another example of Ken Cuccinelli ignoring the economy and instead focusing on his divisive ideological agenda."

The Cuccinelli campaign said McAuliffe's criticisms were off the mark.

"It is sad and unfortunate the day has come that Democrats attack someone for protecting children from sexual predators," Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix said.