Sodomy laws in the United States
Sodomy laws in the United States were laws that made certain kinds of sexual activity illegal. In the past, there were federal laws against sodomy. Every state also had a sodomy law, even in the 20th century.
Starting in the 1960s, some states began to repeal (throw out) their sodomy laws. In 2003, in a case called Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional. This means no sodomy law in the United States can be used to charge a person with a crime.
Types of laws[change | change source]
Every state law made sodomy between homosexual couples illegal. Other state laws also made sodomy illegal between heterosexual couples, if they were not married. The strictest laws made sodomy illegal in every case, even between married couples.
Creation of sodomy laws[change | change source]
The first sodomy laws in America were created when America was still a colony of the British Empire. In the Jamestown colony (the first permanent settlement in America), sodomy could be punished by execution.
Sodomy could be punished by execution in many of the other American colonies as well. In cases of rape or statutory rape, the victim was often punished also. Sometimes the victim was executed along with their rapist.
Historians are not sure exactly how many people were executed for sodomy in colonial America:
- In the 1600s, when executions for sodomy were most common, there may have been five or ten people executed for sodomy (including bestiality)
- From 1700 to independence in 1776, there may have been five more executions for sodomy (including bestiality)
- Historian Anne-Marie Cusac says that about fifty people were executed in the American colonies for sexual crimes (though these crimes included rape as well as sodomy)
Punishments[change | change source]
Before 1963, every state in the United States had laws against sodomy. The states did change these laws so that sodomy was no longer a capital crime. However, punishments could be as severe as life in prison.
|“||During the 1950s, McCarthyism resulted in state- and nationwide witch hunts of male "homosexuals" in which the acts of oral and anal sex between consenting adult men were [treated the same as] child molestation.||”|
|Alabama||2–10 years in prison||Alaska||1–10 years in prison||Arizona||5–20 years|
|Arkansas||1–21 years||California||At least 1 year||Colorado||1–14 years|
|Colorado||1–14 years||Connecticut||30 years||Delaware||3 years and $1000 fine[a]|
|District of Columbia||10 years or $1000 fine||Florida||20 years||Georgia||1–10 years for 1st conviction|
10–30 years for 2nd conviction
|Hawaii||20 years and $1000 fine||Idaho||At least 5 years||Illinois|
|Indiana||2–14 years, or $100-$1000 fine, or both||Iowa||10 years||Kansas||10 years|
|Kentucky||2–5 years||Louisiana||5 years or $2000 fine,[b] or both||Maine||1–10 years|
|Maryland||1–10 years||Massachusetts||20 years||Michigan||15 years|
|Minnesota||20 years||Mississippi||10 years||Missouri||At least 2 years|
|Montana||At least 5 years||Nebraska||20 years||Nevada||1 year to life in prison|
|New Hampshire||20 years||New Jersey||20 years or $5000 fine[c] , or both||New Mexico||2–10 years or $5000 fine, or both|
|New York||3 months||North Carolina||5–60 years||North Dakota||10 years|
|Ohio||1–20 years||Oklahoma||10 years||Oregon||15 years|
|Pennsylvania||10 years or $5000 fine, or both||Rhode Island||7–20 years||South Carolina||5 years or at least a $5000 fine, or both|
|South Dakota||10 years||Tennessee||5–15 years||Texas||2–15 years|
|Utah||3–20 years||Vermont||1–5 years||Virginia||1–3 years|
|Washington||10 years||West Virginia||1–10 years||Wisconsin||5 years or $500 fine, or both|
Repeals begin[change | change source]
In the 1960s, attitudes toward sex became much more liberal in the United States. As this happened, some states began to repeal their sodomy laws. Illinois was the first state to do this, in 1963. In the 1960s and 1970s, seventeen other states repealed their sodomy laws. Another seven states changed their laws to say that sodomy between heterosexual couples was not a crime. These seven states kept laws that made sodomy between homosexual couples a misdemeanor.
Lawrence v. Texas[change | change source]
By 2003, thirty-one of the fifty states had repealed their laws against sodomy. Fifteen states had laws left that made sodomy a crime. Four more had laws that made sodomy between same-sex couples a crime.
In 2003, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas. It ruled that Texas's sodomy law was unconstitutional. This ruling meant that no sodomy law in the United States was constitutional or could be used to charge a person with a crime. In other words, it made sexual activity between homosexuals legal in every state in America.
At this time, nineteen states still had sodomy laws that they had not repealed.
Some states refuse to repeal[change | change source]
As of 2019, 16 states had not repealed their sodomy laws, even though they cannot be used any more because of Lawrence v. Texas. Thirteen of these state laws make both heterosexual and homosexual sodomy illegal:
Since the ruling, 3 states have repealed their sodomy laws:
- Montana (directed only at homosexual sodomy via a common law definition) (repealed in 2013)
- Virginia (repealed in 2014)
- Utah (repealed in 2019)
Notes[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- Cavendish, Marshall (2010). Sex and Society. Marshall Cavendish Corporation. p. 825. ISBN 978-0761479086.
- Eskridge, Jr., William N. (2008). "Appendix: The Evolution of State Sodomy Laws, Colonial Times to Lawrence v. Texas (2003)". Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861–2003. New York, New York: Penguin Group. pp. 387–408. ISBN 978-0-670-01862-8.
- Cusac, Anne-Marie (March 17, 2009). Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America. Yale University Press. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-0300155495.
- Crompton, Louis (1976). Homosexuals and the Death Penalty in Colonial America. Journal of Homosexuality 1 (3): 277-293. doi:10.1300/J082v01n03_03.
- Paternoster, Raymond (1991). Capital Punishment in America. Lexington Books. p. 4. ISBN 978-0669214093.
- Espy, M. Watt; & Smykla, John Ortiz (2004). Executions in the United States, 1608-2002: The Espy File. 4th ICPSR ed. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. doi:10.3886/ICPSR08451.v4.
- Mattachine Society. "Penalties for Sex Offenses in the United States (1964)". Digital Collections, The New York Public Library. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lennox, and Tilden Foundation. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
- Weinmeyer, Richard (November 2014). The Decriminalization of Sodomy in the United States. AMA Journal of Ethics 16 (11): 916-922.
- "Mattachine Society, Inc. of New York Records: 1951-1976". Archives & Manuscripts, The New York Public Library. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lennox, and Tilden Foundation. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
- "Inflation Calculator". US Inflation Calculator. CoinNews Media Group LLC. 2016. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
- Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986).
- Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
- Alab. Code 13A-6-65.
- Fld. Stat. 798.02; Fld. Stat. 800.02.
- Ga. Stat. 16-6-18.
- I.C. § 18-6605.
- R.S. 14:89.
- Md. Code Ann. § 3-321; Md. Code Ann. § 3-322.
- MGL Ch. 272, § 34; MGL Ch. 272, § 35.
- MCL § 750.158; MCL § 750.338; MCL § 750.338a; MCL § 750.338b.
- Minn. Stat. 609.293; Minn. Stat. 609.34.
- Miss. Code § 97-29-59.
- G.S. § 14-177; G.S. § 14-184; G.S. § 14-186.
- Okla. Stat. § 21-886.
- S.C. Code § 16-15-60; S.C. Code § 16-15-120.
- Kan. Stat. 21-5504
- KY Rev Stat § 510.100.
- Tx. Code § 21.06.
- Montana Code Annotated § 45-5-505