Gottfried: Unenforced Adultery Ban Is Absurd

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-New York City, is pictured speaking at a rally.

New York state is one of 21 states in the country where adultery is illegal.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-New York City, has introduced legislation (A.11073) to end the state’s longstanding, and unenforced, ban on adultery.

“This outdated statute criminalizes sexual behavior between consenting adults as a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in prison. This is facially absurd; the state has no business regulating the consensual sexual behavior between adults. It is long past time for us to remove this statute from the penal law,” Gottfried wrote in his legislative justification.

Such legislation hasn’t been introduced in some time in the state Legislature. No corresponding legislation has been introduced yet in the state Senate.

New York is one of 21 states that technically criminalize adultery, though New York’s misdemeanor charge pales in comparison to the felony-level crime on the books in Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. While attempts to enforce adultery laws are rare, they remain on the books in part because politicians don’t want to publicly endorse adultery. In February, the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate voted to repeal its fornication code, which includes adultery, and the legislation was signed into law in July.

“No one should think they can be prosecuted for this common practice,” Delegate Mark Levine, a Democrat, said according to the Associated Press. “Now that the Democrats are in power, I’m thrilled to get it off the books. … It’s a stupid law. It’s crazy.”

Overseas, adultery laws have been enforced into the 21st century in some countries. South Korea, for example, had 5,500 adultery prosecutions between 2008 and 2015, according to a CNN report, before adultery was decriminalized. Many countries governed by Islamic law, according to UK publication The Week, strictly prohibit adultery, with punishments including fines, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, flogging or death in extreme cases.


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