First, and Unique Facts
By George Painter
© Copyright, George Painter 2004
a clear law adopting the English common law (which makes sodomy a crime), the
Alabama Supreme Court rules that the common law is not in effect in the state.
Because there is no specific sodomy law at the time, this prohibits
prosecution for sodomy in the state. In 1830, the Court reverses itself.
enacts the nation’s first law giving a spouse the right to sue for divorce
if the other spouse committed sodomy, either before or after the marriage.
enacts a unique law banning a “conspiracy to commit the crime against
nature.” This law is not defined and it is unclear if there ever was a
Alabama legislature passes a revised sterilization law to cover any “sexual
pervert, Sadist, homosexualist, Masochist, Sodomist, or any other grave form
of sexual perversion [sic].” Concerned that there are not sufficient
due process guarantees in the bill, Governor Bibb Graves asks the Alabama
Supreme Court for an advisory opinion. The Court agrees with the Governor that
the bill would be unconstitutional on due process grounds. When the
legislature adds due process guarantees, Governor Graves, who has changed from
a sterilization supporter to an opponent, vetoes the bill again. The
legislature never enacts this bill.
escaped prisoner caused the word “homosexual” to appear in a U.S. Supreme
Court decision for the first time. A man fled Alabama for Ohio and tried to
prevent his return to the Alabama prisons, claiming he had been used as a
“gal-boy” by the “homosexuals among the prisoners.” The Court rules
Alabama appellate court upholds a sodomy conviction after a trial in which the
mother of a 17-year-old partner was permitted to ask “what men can do with
the United States buys Alaska from the Russians, Alaska has no criminal laws
whatsoever. Five years before, the Russian Czar, in a fit of anger,
revoked all Russian law there. Not
only is sodomy therefore legal, but so where murder, rape, arson, and every
other crime. This situation
remains for 17 years after purchase by the U.S. until Congress enacted a law
to give some stability to Alaska.
enacts the nation’s first law forbidding the sale of comic books that
portray “sexually indecent subject matter such as adultery, homo-sexuality,
sadism, masochism or other perversions.”
Alaska legislature, thinking it is removing surplus language in a clean-up of
state law, accidentally legalizes oral sex.
When pointed out to it by the Alaska Supreme Court, the legislature
makes no effort to correct the “error” and later repeals the remaining
portion of the sodomy law.
1963 A new
criminal code based on the laws of Georgia is enacted, which excludes Lesbians
from prosecution for sodomy. American Samoa had had no law against sodomy
since its acquisition by the U.S. in 1899.
seven months after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the common-law
definition of sodomy did not permit prosecutions for fellatio, the legislature
changed the law. Although a complete recompilation of state law was adopted,
in which the compiler was denied “any power to change or modify or make any
law or laws,” the sodomy law was changed to include “the penetration of
the mouth of any human being by the organ of any male person.” Another new
law adopted in the Code was that a wife was considered competent to testify
against her husband, but not vice versa, in a trial for “the crime against
nature, or any similar offense[.]”
Arizona Supreme Court is the first in the nation to receive a sodomy case in
which an explicit right to privacy is raised. The Court did not address the
claim; it merely ignored it.
Arizona Supreme Court upholds a conviction in the only known published sodomy
case in which a man arrested for sodomy accuses the arresting officer of being
attracted to other men.
eliminates the existing racial discrimination in the penalty for sodomy by
raising the penalty to death for everyone. No death sentences are carried out
under the law, however. This law, though found in the state’s session laws,
is not found in any published code for the state, either having been
overlooked by a compiler, or intentionally ignored due to embarrassment.
there are many hundreds of reported sodomy cases in the United States, many of
which give much personal detail, an Arkansas case this year is the only one in
U.S. history that mentions the circumcision status of a partner in a male-male
lowers its minimum penalty for sodomy from five years to one year, noting that
juries were reluctant to convict defendants with such a severe penalty.
becomes the first Southern state to repeal its consensual sodomy law when it
enacts a comprehensive criminal code revision. However, in 1977, during Anita
Bryant’s anti-Gay crusade, it reinstates the law, this time as applicable
only to people of the same sex.
carried out under Spanish law, the last known U.S. death sentence for sodomy
occurs in California. Eighteen-year-old Jose Antonio Rosas is shot by a firing
first criminal code is enacted, and includes a ban on sodomy. The law begins
with the preface, “The People of the State of California, represented in
Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:”. However, the law was enacted in
April when California still was a territory. It did not become a state until
September, and it is unclear if this made the original law invalid.
California Supreme Court upholds the sodomy convictions of two prisoners for
relations with each other in their cell, the first published U.S. case dealing
with sex in a prison.
is the first state to adopt a sterilization law covering “sexual
California appellate court is the first in the nation to ponder, in a written
opinion, the nature of human sexuality in a sodomy case.
expands its sodomy law by enacting a law against oral sex. This unique law
actually outlawed the acts of “fellatio” and “cunnilingus,” the first
uses of these words in a U.S. statute. Four years later, the California
Supreme Court struck down the law, saying that “fellatio” and
“cunnilingus” are not words of ordinary use in the English language,
something California law requires. The legislature responds by outlawing
California appellate court upholds a sodomy conviction that followed a
mother’s drilling holes in her 14-year-old son’s bedroom wall to see what
he was doing with a partner.
California appellate court upholds a sodomy conviction that is the first case
in the nation to mention condoms found in the home as evidence admitted
against the defendant.
California appellate court upholds a sodomy conviction that followed a
mother’s hiring a private detective to hide under the bed of her son’s
partner and burst out during their sex.
enacts the nation’s first law requiring revocation of a teacher’s license
if the teacher is convicted of sodomy or oral copulation.
is the first state in the nation to enact a “sex offender registration
law.” It requires registration and reports of changes of address of persons
convicted of sex offenses, including consensual sodomy and oral copulation.
California appellate court rules that Gay men are vagrant per se, permitting
them to be jailed without committing any criminal act.
California Supreme Court is the first in the nation to find a right to privacy
in enclosed restroom stalls, reversing convictions for consensual sodomy
occurring therein. Many other state courts follow this decision.
enacts a unique law, signed by Governor Ronald Reagan, permitting the
treatment of sexual psychopaths by means of prayer alone.
Colorado Supreme Court, in upholding a sodomy conviction, becomes the first in
the nation to refer to the defendant as “queer” in its opinion.
Colorado Supreme Court is the first in the nation to strike down an
“offensive solicitation” provision, common in new criminal codes enacted
in the early 1970s, that was designed as an exception to the decriminalization
Haven Colony (later merged into Connecticut) adopts the first law in what
became the United States specifically to outlaw sex between two women.
There are no prosecutions under the law, which is a capital offense.
revision of the state’s colonial-era sodomy law reduces the penalty from
death to life imprisonment and, probably unwittingly makes two other changes
to the law. First, it is worded uniquely that either sex can be the
perpetrator, but only a male can be a victim. Second, it refers to “carnal
knowledge of a man,” thus probably becoming the first state to outlaw
Connecticut Supreme Court is the first in the nation to find that deadly force
is allowable to prevent an act of sodomy.
Connecticut Supreme Court affirms a lower court in granting damages to a man
for the injury his teenage son suffered from a sexual relationship with
another teenage boy.
Commissioner of Motor Vehicles John Tynan denies a driver’s license to a man
with a sodomy conviction on his record, saying the man “is an admitted
homosexual” and “his homosexuality makes him an improper person to hold an
operator’s license.” Connecticut Attorney General Robert Killian upholds
Tynan’s decision. The man denied his license later commits suicide.
becomes the last state in the nation to eliminate time in the pillory for acts
Delaware appellate court becomes the first court in the nation to rule that a
solicitation to commit sodomy is not an attempt to commit it.
Delaware Supreme Court rules that the state’s strict ban on probation for
sodomy can be ignored by courts.
it was merely one part of an entire criminal code being voted on at once, a
sodomy law is defeated by the voters of the District of Columbia, the first
time voters said no to it.
District of Columbia court ruled that, despite no adoptive language under
District law, all common-law crimes are in effect in the District, meaning
that sodomy can be prosecuted even without a sodomy law.
earliest known published case in the U.S. in which a man solicits a police
officer for sex is reported in the District of Columbia.
District government enters into a stipulation agreement not to prosecute
private, consensual sodomy.
getting home rule from Congress, the District of Columbia Council passes a new
sex offenses law that repeals the sodomy law. Congress disallows the new law
with a one-house veto by the U.S. House. This is the first time that a local
law was disallowed by Congress without it having violated federal supremacy.
Later, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down one-house vetoes, but Congress
still repeals the District law.
becomes the first state in 123 years to make the penalty for sodomy death. It
is unclear why the penalty was raised, but no death sentences are carried out
in the state for it.
years after making sodomy a capital offense, Florida enacts a law forbidding
anyone convicted of sodomy from being a witness in a trial.
the most homophobic language ever used in a sodomy opinion appears in a
decision from the Florida Supreme Court. “A discussion of the loathsome,
revolting crime would be of no edification to the people, nor interest to the
members of the bar. The creatures who are guilty are entitled to a
consideration of their case because they are called human beings and are
entitled to the protection of the laws.”
Florida Supreme Court uses some unjudicious and ungrammatical language
concerning the defendant in a sodomy case, asking if “the action of a 76
year old, aged Indian War Veteran, feeble physically and mentally, in, after
having met the two girls of 11 and 13 years of age who solicited him, went to
his residence and there they both get on the bed, pull up their dresses and
drop down their panties, when he in turn on his back in the same bed allowed
them to diddle with his rag-like penis, unerectable, lifeless and useless
except to connect the bladder with the outside world for more than six years
since the death of his wife, utterly incapable of either penetration or
emission, and wad it like a rag into their mouths, and then, in a feeble and
aged condition impelled by the irresistible impulse, in turn he would kiss and
put his tongue in their little, though potentially influential and powerful
Florida Supreme Court finds that, if death were reinstated as the penalty for
consensual sodomy, it would be constitutional.
unique opinion from the Attorney General of Florida decides that an act of
sodomy committed on an Indian reservation between two Indians or an Indian and
a non-Indian can not be prosecuted under state law.
year-and-a-half after striking down the state’s felony “crime against
nature” law as unconstitutionally vague, the Florida Supreme Court, with no
changes in membership, upholds the state’s misdemeanor “unnatural and
lascivious acts” law, finding “against nature” too vague, but
“unnatural” perfectly understandable.
trial court Miami is the first to find a Gay bathhouse a private place where
sexual activity is constitutionally protected.
first becomes a criminal offense in Georgia, 85 years after its organization
as a colony. It is the only one of the 13 colonies in which sodomy was legal
throughout the colonial period.
enacts a unique sodomy law (later copied by American Samoa) in which sodomy
was defined as “carnal knowledge and connection against the order of nature
by man with man, or in the same unnatural manner with woman.” Thus, what men
and women could legally do or not was determined by what it was possible for
two men to do. This law also clearly exempted Lesbians from prosecution.
Georgia appellate court publishes the first known case concerning a sodomy
prosecution for interfemoral intercourse. The court says that this does not
Georgia Supreme Court is the first U.S. court to publish a sodomy case
involving two women. Because of Georgia’s unique 1833 sodomy law wording,
the Court finds that the women can not be prosecuted. The Georgia legislature
makes no effort to change the law.
Georgia Supreme Court decides the only known case in which a mother sued the
employer of a man who engaged in sodomy with her son. She loses the case.
becomes the first Southern state to enact a comprehensive criminal code
revision following the publication of the Model Penal Code. It does not follow
the recommendation to repeal its sodomy law, but instead retains it as a
felony and makes it applicable to Lesbians as well.
1986 It is
the Georgia sodomy law that is subject of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision
that homosexual sodomy is not a fundamental right.
becomes a criminal offense in Guam with the promulgation of a criminal code by
the Naval Governor, the first in the U.S. to be enacted without legislation.
series of laws is enacted while Hawaii still was an independent nation,
including a puzzling edict that “men and boys are forbidden to run in crowds
after new things. Whosoever does this in an indecent manner shall be punished
thus; he shall be taken to the house of confinement and remain till he pay a
rial [unit of currency], and be sent at liberty.”
first sodomy-related case ever to reach the U.S. Supreme Court involves the
entrapment of a man by military police into solicitation. The Court refuses to
hear the case.
Hawaii Supreme Court, in a non-sodomy case, discusses the state’s explicit
privacy rights amendment to the constitution and decides that it still does
not protect sodomy from prosecution, even though the state has repealed its
sodomy law. This means the state would be free to reenact a sodomy law at any
Idaho Supreme Court rules that the state’s sodomy law that sets a minimum,
but no maximum penalty, permits a sentence of life imprisonment. This decision
is reaffirmed in 1992 by an appellate court that finds the possibility of life
imprisonment for private consensual activity to be reasonable.
becomes one of the earliest states to repeal its sodomy law, but outrage from
the Mormon and Catholic Churches causes a panic in the state. In 1972, the
entire old code, with the felony sodomy law, is reinstated, making Idaho the
first state ever to reinstate a repealed sodomy law.
appellate court, following the lead of many other states, decides that sexual
activity occurring in an enclosed restroom stall is constitutionally
protected. The last name of the man arrested for masturbating in the stall was
is the first state to prohibit voting and jury service by anyone convicted of
Illinois Supreme Court becomes the first in the nation to uphold a sodomy
conviction for an act of fellatio. The Court had to use an obscure law that
denied civil rights to anyone convicted of “sodomy or other crime against
nature.” This, the Court said, made it clear that there were many different
crimes against nature.
Illinois Supreme Court becomes the first in the nation to hear a sodomy
conviction appeal for an act of cunnilingus. Just 16 years after saying that
fellatio violated the law, the Court went the double-standard route and found
that cunnilingus did not violate the law.
enacting a comprehensive criminal code revision, Illinois becomes the first
state in the nation to repeal its consensual sodomy law.
extremely harsh sodomy law, including flogging, is signed by Governor William
Henry Harrison, the only sodomy law ever signed by a future U.S. President.
becomes the first state in the nation to make an accusation of sodomy a
specific ground for libel.
1881 A new
criminal code adds a provision to the sodomy law that it is illegal for a
person over twenty-one to assist someone under twenty-one with masturbation.
Cunnilingus is prosecuted in the state under this provision.
enacts the nation’s (and world’s) first sterilization law. The first law
covers all “confirmed criminals,” which could include those convicted of
first published sodomy case under the federal Assimilative Crimes Act is in
Indiana. The law makes a crime on federal property located within a state
anything that is a crime under state law.
Supreme Court Justice Amos Jackson issues the first of what would turn out to
be many dissents in sodomy cases, he being the most outspokenly anti-sodomy
law Supreme Court Justice in the nation until his retirement in 1970.
enacts its first statute against sodomy and the enacting law says that it will
become law upon publication in two stated newspapers. Though technically
either paper thus is given a veto power over the new law, it is published
promptly by both.
Iowa Supreme Court is the first to get a sodomy defense claim of
“irresistable insane impulse.” The Court rejects the argument.
1907 A new
law requires first time offender male prisoners to be sent to the state
reformatory instead of prison, except for those convicted of four offenses,
one of them sodomy.
Iowa Supreme Court is the first to get a sodomy defense of drunkeness. It
rejects the argument.
enacts a unique law requiring a coroner’s inquest into deaths caused by
“crimes against nature.”
1969 In a
comprehensive criminal code revision, Kansas becomes the first state in the
nation to make its consensual sodomy law applicable only to people of the same
sex. The Judicial Council falsely reported to the legislature that this
language was “similar in wording” to those of other states revising their
codes during the same era.
becomes the first state to amend its incest law specifically to make same-sex
incest a crime.
Kansas Supreme Court interprets the state’s sodomy law as not criminalizing
cunnilingus. The Kansas legislature acts swiftly to “correct” the
oversight, but accidentally includes heterosexual cunnilingus. Then they
“corrected” that error by rewording the law to re-legalize heterosexual
contradictory guide for justices of the peace is published which defines
sodomy as 1) sodomy, buggery, and bestiality, which it claimed were
synonymous; 2) sodomy was not bestiality; and 3) sodomy was unnatural
copulation with man or beast, but it also was only unnatural copulation
becomes the first state adopting a state Uniform Code of Military Justice for
its militia, based on the federal code, to include a specific sodomy
provision. In 1970, it becomes the first state as well to repeal this explicit
proposed criminal code for Louisiana by jurist Edward Livingston would have
repealed the state’s sodomy law, which would have been by the far the
earliest decriminalization in U.S. history. The legislature does not accept
Louisiana Supreme Court is the first in the nation to reject a challenge to a
sodomy law as too vague to be constitutional.
outlaws oral sex and the law to do so is the 69th to pass the legislature of
the year, so that the anti-oral sex law is known officially as Act 69.
most amusing courtroom testimony to be reprinted in a sodomy case appears in a
case decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court with: The defendant “s____d the
____ of my son Ned until he has lost his mind.”
earliest known law review criticism of a sodomy law appears in the Tulane
Law Review. The sodomy law was one of several laws in a new code that
deserved criticism, according to the article, but “space does not permit
becomes the first state to bifurcate its sodomy law to include an
“aggravated crime against nature” crime.
becomes the first state to make solicitation for compensation of an act of
sodomy to be a completed act of sodomy.
Louisiana Supreme Court, upholding the state’s sodomy law against a privacy
challenge, states that what the voters actually were saying in adopting a
privacy amendment to the state constitution is that they wanted to retain the
right of the legislature to make decisions on privacy for them.
Maine Supreme Court is the first in the nation to rule that masturbating
another person does not violate the state’s sodomy law.
the adoption of its charter, Maryland becomes the only one of the original 13
colonies in which English law is unquestionably operative from the moment the
enacts a unique sodomy law that permits those convicted of sodomy to be put to
work cleaning and repairing streets.
enacts the nation’s first law making murder committed as a consequence of
sodomy a capital offense.
Maryland Court of Appeals publishes the first published sodomy case in U.S.
history when it disposes of a case challenging the sufficiency of the
Attorney General of Maryland lists sodomy as among the crimes that showed a
lack of good moral character that would exclude someone from the military.
criminal code revision commission recommends repealing the state’s sodomy
law, but establishing a discriminatory age of consent, something never before
recommended in a proposed code. The Maryland legislature does not follow
Maryland Court of Appeals, ignoring four previous decisions, rules that the
state’s sodomy law did not apply to heterosexual activity and never had.
Johnson is the first woman known to be prosecuted for sexual relations with
another woman, in Massachusetts Bay Colony.
new Massachusetts sodomy law refers to sodomy as being “against the very
light of nature,” the first statutory reference to nature in a sodomy law.
Massachusetts Supreme Court decides the nation’s first obscenity case that
includes same-sex eroticism.
Massachusetts Supreme Court issues the first reported decision in the nation
concerning sexual relations in a bath house.
Massachusetts Supreme Court upholds the state’s sodomy law in the first case
in the nation to issue a broad challenge to it.
enacts a unique law forbidding the debauching of boys, either by a male or a
outlaws oral sex with the term “gross indecency,” a unique choice of words
in the U.S. This is the term in the law that sent Oscar Wilde to prison in
becomes the first state in the nation to enact what became known as a
“psychopathic offender” law. This law, usually limited to sexual
offenders, sentenced those convicted of any sexual offense, including private
consensual sodomy, to an often nightmare ordeal in state mental institutions,
often for many years.
Minnesota Supreme Court upholds a sodomy conviction based on letters opened by
the post office, the first such situation reported in a U.S. sodomy case.
Minnesota legislature passes a new criminal code, but fails to change any of
the sex offense sections, stating that they were just too controversial to
adopts a unique provision in its new constitution to exclude the public from
trials for sodomy.
Attorney General of Mississippi, revising the state’s code at the behest of
the legislature, retitles the sodomy provision from “Crime Against Nature”
to “Unnatural Intercourse” without editing the text of the law itself, and
later the Mississippi Supreme Court rules that this action expanded the reach
of the law.
Missouri Supreme Court, deciding a slander case involving an accusation of
sodomy, publishes the word “fuck” in its opinion.
Missouri Supreme Court handles the first reported sodomy case in the United
States in which the defendant is a police officer.
Missouri appellate court is the first to decide that being called a “cock
sucker” was actionable as slander.
enacts a new sodomy law, but it is worded in such a convoluted manner that
most attorneys think it criminalizes all sexual conduct, including by married
Montana Supreme Court reverses a sodomy conviction that was based apparently
only on the close friendship of the two defendants.
Montana Supreme Court reverses a sodomy conviction that seemed to be based on
a spanking given by one partner to the other, something not contemplated by
the state’s sodomy law.
Montana Supreme Court reaffirms an earlier decision that fellatio is outlawed
by the state’s sodomy law, but the dissent written by Justice W. Hugh Adair
is the longest recorded in a sodomy case, some 12,000 words (the length of a
good-sized short story).
Montana Constitutional Convention defeats the nation’s first explicit
attempt to create a sexual privacy amendment in the new constitution, but
includes a general privacy provision. Later, the Montana Supreme Court uses
the general amendment to strike down the state’s sodomy law.
amends its sodomy law to include the possibility of a $50,000 fine (as well as
prison time), the largest fine ever in U.S. history for sodomy.
amends its sodomy law to include the nation’s first explicit protection from
disclosure of treatment for a sexual transmitted disease to prosecutors.
outlaws oral sex and the law to do so is the 69th to pass the legislature of
the year, so that the anti-oral sex law is known officially as Act 69.
Nebraska Supreme Court overturns a sodomy conviction based on a deathbed
confession that the “victim” got syphilis from the defendant, the only
known such case in U.S. history.
Nebraska Supreme Court rules that, in effect, some victims of sodomitical
assaults “deserve” the assault.
repeals its sodomy law in a comprehensive criminal code revision that is
enacted by overriding the Governor’s veto. This is the only sodomy repeal
ever passed over a gubernatorial veto.
Nevada Supreme Court rules that the sodomy law is violated merely by licking a
penis, something other states have rejected, requiring actual penetration by
legal journal reveals perhaps the most extreme misuse of a psychopathic
offender law in U.S. history: a 12-year-old boy was processed under the law
because he and a 9-year-old boy compared the length of their penises.
repeal of the state’s consensual sodomy law is enacted by literally sneaking
it past the state’s outspokenly homophobic Governor. A revision of the
state’s rape laws created two new sections of law repealing two others, the
old rape law and the sodomy law. The Governor had not checked the repealed
sections before signing the bill.
New Jersey legislature, in an effort to quell public discontent with the
government, adopts a law pardoning everyone charged with any but 11 crimes.
Sodomy was not one of the 11 exempted, so all sodomy prosecutions are
abandoned of that date.
adopting a new criminal code for the state, the New Jersey legislature makes
that state the first in the nation to use the term “crime against nature”
to refer to sodomy.
1898 In a
new criminal code, New Jersey permits any person to kill someone who was
“attempting to commit sodomy,” whether or not the person doing the killing
was the potential victim. Such
killer would be “guiltless, and shall be totally acquitted and
New Jersey Supreme Court gets the first rudimentary privacy claim in a U.S.
sodomy case. Two men arrested for “private lewdness” with each other
claim that, because their activity occurred in private, it didn’t debauch
the public. The Court rejects
their argument and upholds their convictions.
New Jersey Supreme Court rules that sodomy defendants have a right to have
their marital and parental status entered into their trials, something not
seen in any other state.
1960 A New
Jersey appellate court upholds the sodomy conviction of a right-wing
McCarthyite attorney for sex with various teenage males.
New Jersey Supreme Court overturns the conviction of two men for having sex in
a car parked in a dark area along a state highway, saying that it was nearly
impossible for them to have been seen by anyone, the first such decision in
passage of a new criminal code that repealed the state’s sodomy law, Senator
Joseph Maressa announces a crusade to reinstate consensual sodomy as a crime
only for acts between people of the same sex. After much public criticism, he
withdraws his bill.
New Mexico House of Representatives passes a proposed new criminal code that
includes a repeal of the consensual sodomy law, making it the first state ever
to have a repeal bill pass a house of a legislature. Unfortunately for
history, the Senate doesn’t go along and the new code fails to become law.
The bill also uses the unique term “variant sexual practice,” rather than
“deviant sexual practice,” as was preferred by other states.
court judge Lewis Sutin becomes the nation’s most outspoken anti-sodomy law
state court judge, following the retirement of Indiana Supreme Court Justice
Amos Jackson. Sutin continues on his crusade until the law is repealed in
1814 A New
York trial court publishes the earliest known slander case in U.S. history
involving an accusation of sodomy.
1839 A New
York trial court publishes the earliest known case in U.S. history in which a
person is found to have committed robbery by threatening a victim with an
accusation of sodomy.
earliest known case of a civil servant being dismissed for making a
sodomitical solicitation occurs with a New York City police officer.
to the lingering beliefs from medieval times that sodomy always was assaultive
in nature, two men arrested for consensual sodomy with each other are charged
with sexually assaulting each other.
York becomes the first state in the nation to reduce the penalty for
consensual sodomy from a felony to a misdemeanor.
first in a series of court decisions in New York overturns convictions of men
for soliciting undercover police officers to go back to their place for
“fun.” The courts say that “fun” can be any number of things. This
opens a hole in the state’s solicitation laws.
court overturns the disorderly conduct conviction of a man for soliciting and
fondling an undercover police officer in a restroom because there was no
evidence that there was an attempt to breach the peace, which the court found
to be required by the law.
state’s highest court interprets the portion of state’s sodomy law
covering anal sex to criminalize the acts only of the partner inserting his
penis into his partner’s anus. The
following year, the New York legislature amends the sodomy law to cover both
adopting a new criminal code, the New York legislature makes that state the
first in the nation to adopt a statutory exemption to the sodomy law for
federal judge is the first in the nation to be presented with a sodomy
prosecution of actors for engaging in sex on a public stage.
York is the first state to have a prosecution for sodomy under its state
Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that covers the national guard.
Carolina becomes the last state in the nation to abolish references from its
sodomy law to the old English legal custom of benefit of clergy.
guidebook for justices of the peace on North Carolina advocates the Napoleonic
Code for the state. In France,
the Napoleonic Code had decriminalized consensual sodomy.
1954 A law
review recommends amending the state’s sodomy law to exclude married couples
from the statute’s coverage, but no one else.
judge J. Braxton Craven issues a sarcastic opinion ridiculing the North
Carolina sodomy law, calling into question trial procedures in sodomy cases,
the penalty prescribed by the law, and even the wisdom of outlawing consensual
most bizarre language ever found in a U.S. sodomy case is in a concurring
opinion in a case in which a conviction for heterosexual cunnilingus is
upheld. The judge complained that the girl involved “was not given even a
is outlawed by Executive Order of the Commissioner of the trusteeship set up
by the United Nations. This is the only such U.S. law ever enacted by a
outlaws adultery, and one of its provisions may prohibit sexual relations
between women, when it forbids married women from having sexual intercourse
with other “person,” whereas the prohibition for men is limited to
“other women.” The law lasts nine years before being changed.
becomes the first state in the nation to outlaw the possession of “sex
outlaws sodomy for the first time, and there is evidence that the law was
enacted solely as a political embarrassment for the Governor, who was hinted
as being Gay by an opponent newspaper.
Ohio appellate court becomes the first in the nation to rule that two women
can not be prosecuted for sodomy.
Ohio court is the first in the nation to decide that an act of extramarital
sodomy constitutes adultery.
becomes the first state in the nation to prohibit probation for anyone
convicted of sodomy.
police set up a national dragnet to catch a man who engaged in consensual
sexual relations with seven other men. The New York Times assists by
opening mail sent to a box at the newspaper.
Ohio court, handling a divorce case, is the first in the nation to find a
constitutional right of married couples to engage in sodomy.
Ohio appellate court is the first in the nation to strike down a statute
banning solicitation for an “unnatural sex act,” the court noting that the
term is impossible to define.
first case in U.S. federal court raising Civil War-era civil rights statutes
to block prosecution on sodomy charges is lost when a judge rules against the
enacts a new criminal code and repeals its sodomy law. This code is the first
in the nation to adopt gender-neutral sexual assault laws, and the first to
adopt “modern” references to sexual activity, omitting references to
“perversion” or “unnatural.”
first criminal code makes explicit that married couples can be prosecuted for
Oklahoma appellate court becomes the first court in the nation to rule that an
act of cunnilingus is a “crime against nature.”
Court of Criminal Appeals rules that the state’s sodomy law can not be applied
constitutionally to people of the opposite sex. In 1988, another court rules
that the decision applies to “consenting adults,” apparently regardless of
gender. Just two weeks later, the same court clarifies that it is applicable
only to “consensual, heterosexual” activity.
enacts a state RICO law that applies to businesses involved in criminal
activity, including sodomy. This apparently can be used against bath houses.
Oregon settlers adopt a code of laws based on Iowa law, but it is unclear if
the Iowa code adopted is the 1838 code that had Michigan’s sodomy law, or
the 1843 code that didn’t have any sodomy law.
1894 A Gay
male couple is reported to police by a neighbor and one is sent to jail.
adopts a uniquely worded new sodomy law: “If any person shall commit sodomy
or the crime against nature, or any act or practice of sexual perversity,
either with mankind or beast, or sustain osculatory relations with the private
parts of any man, woman or child, or permit such relations to be sustained
with his or her private parts, such person shall upon conviction thereof, be
punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than one year nor more
than fifteen years.”
enacts a law requiring the sexual sterilization of “sexual perverts,” who
are defined as those “addicted” to sodomy. A group of prominent citizens
forces a referendum on the new law and voters repeal it by a 56%-44% margin.
Four years later, the Oregon legislature ignores this vote and reenacts
enacts the first law in the nation forbidding the kidnapping of a child for
purposes of engaging in sodomy.
Oregon Supreme Court upholds a sodomy conviction based on a neighbor reporting
a Gay couple to police.
Oregon Court of Appeals issues two decisions that all but obliterate the
state’s law against public indecency when it reverses convictions for
masturbating openly in public restrooms.
criminal code enacted in this Quaker colony sets the maximum penalty for
sodomy at six months in jail, the only non-capital sodomy law in the American
colonies. This leniency ends when
Quakers lose control of the colony.
new sodomy law, limited only to men, sets the penalty for a first offense at
life imprisonment, with a flogging possible every three months during the
first year of imprisonment and, if married, he was to be castrated and his
wife offered a divorce.
enacts the first law in the colonies requiring the posting of a bond for the
good behavior of convicted sodomites being brought into the colony.
becomes the first state to abolish the death penalty for sodomy.
enacts the nation’s first law explicitly covering fellatio.
The law ignores cunnilingus.
case of Commonwealth v. King is the only published sodomy case in U.S.
history to be officially reported in a newspaper rather than a law reporter.
appellate court upholds the conviction of a man for sodomy who asked to strip
naked in the courtroom to prove that he was “normal.”
Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns the conviction of a man for engaging in
sodomy with his eight-year-old son after it noted the charge was filed by the
man’s housekeeper only after he rebuffed her sexual advances.
Rico enacts the nation’s last sexual sterilization law and the last that
covers “sexual perverts.”
Puerto Rico Supreme Court upholds its sodomy law, saying that the legislators
who enacted the law “have read the Holy Scriptures, the Genesis, the
Deuteronomy; they know about Sodom, the ancient city of Palestine and its
devious sexual practices; they have read Saint Paul, Epistle to the Romans and
Saint Thomas—The Summa Theologica—which deal with the matter.”
Rico’s new criminal code creates a unique sodomy law in the United States in
that anal sex is illegal between any two persons, but oral sex is illegal only
between people of the same sex.
Island’s new sodomy law creates a statute of limitations of only ten days.
Island’s new sodomy law eliminates the death penalty for a first offense,
but retains it for a second. No other law in the U.S. had this feature.
Rhode Island legislature enacts a unique law to permit compensation to anyone
killed or injured as a result of specified crimes, including “the crime
Carolina abolishes the death penalty for sodomy, but doesn’t establish a
replacement penalty. This
oversight isn’t corrected for three years.
Carolina adopts the first constitutional ban on voting by those convicted of
sodomy. In 1970, South Carolina voters repeal this provision.
its new criminal code, South Dakota sets the lowest age of consent in the
nation at 13. Two years later, after some controversy, the age is raised to
adopts a new code that refers to the “crimes” against nature. It also
refers to sodomy and buggery, but the latter term is included within the
former. It is possible to interpret this law to outlaw oral sex, but no court
decides the issue.
Tennessee Supreme Court all but begs the Tennessee legislature to repeal the
state’s sodomy law.
Tennessee Supreme Court lets stand an appellate court’s decision striking
down the state’s sodomy law on privacy grounds. This is the first time in
U.S. history that a state’s highest court has declined to review a lower
court decision striking down a sodomy law.
outlaws common-law crimes, which includes sodomy, with uniquely redundant
wording: “A common law offence for which punishment is prescribed by the
statute, shall be punished only in the mode prescribed by statute, shall be
punished only in the mode prescribed.” No word as to whether Gertrude Stein
Texas Supreme Court rules, because the law is worded in vague common-law terms
and the state forbids vague criminal statutes, that there is no such thing as
a “crime against nature” in the state. The law forbidding vague criminal
statutes is repealed in 1879, so this permits prosecution again.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the first in the nation to face a case in
which acts of fellatio are prosecuted under the general sodomy law, rather
than under a more specific amended law. The Court rules that fellatio does not
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the first in the nation to face a case in
which the heterosexual defendants claim that sodomy laws don’t apply to
them. As does every other court facing the issue, the court rules against the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upholds the sodomy conviction of a man called
“a raving, vicious bull, running at large upon the highways, seeking whom he
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the first to face the question of whether
juveniles can receive the same sentence as adults for sodomy. The Court rules
that they can.
first federal court decision striking down a sodomy law eliminates the Texas
law, but the U.S. Supreme Court later reverses the decision on other grounds.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the first to limit the right to privacy in
public restroom stalls to those stalls closed and locked.
enacts a new criminal code and renames its sodomy law “homosexual
conduct,” since it makes its law discriminatory. It also sets the maximum
penalty at a $200 fine, the lowest penalty in the nation.
Texas law is invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision that struck
down sodomy laws throughout the nation.
Utah Supreme Court is the first to discuss the Kinsey Report in a sodomy
becomes the first state to lower the penalty for consensual sodomy in a bill
whose sole function was to lower the penalty for consensual sodomy.
Vermont Supreme Court rules that the state’s general common-law reception
statute can be used to prosecute sodomy, since the state has no sodomy law.
Cornish is hanged for sodomy with another man in Virginia. This is the first
known death sentence for sodomy in the American colonies, although it is
unclear if there was legal authority for the sentence.
committee works on a revised set of criminal law for Virginia. Thomas
Jefferson and other liberals attempt to have the death penalty for sodomy
replaced by castration for men and boring a hole through the nose of a woman.
The committee rejects their suggestion and retains the death penalty.
Virginia Supreme Court is the first in the nation to decide that emission of
semen is not necessary to complete an act of sodomy. This rejects English law
on the subject and almost all U.S. courts later follow Virginia’s lead.
Virginia legislature expands the state’s sodomy law to cover oral sex and
makes the oral sex provision applicable only to people of the same sex.
After the Virginia Supreme Court follows the law and reverses a
heterosexual sodomy conviction, the legislature broadens the law to cover
opposite-sex sodomy as well.
Washington Territory is created out of the Oregon Territory and receives all
Oregon law. Because the operative Oregon criminal code doesn’t mention
sodomy, it becomes legal in Washington. Had the Territory been created just a
year later after Oregon outlawed sodomy, things would have been different.
is the first state in the nation to adopt a Constitution with an explicit
right to privacy therein.
the Washington Supreme Court found that there was no sodomy law in the state,
but that the common-law offenses statute was sufficient for prosecution, the
legislature nevertheless enacts a sodomy law. Governor John Harte McGraw
refuses to sign the bill, allowing it to become law without his signature, the
only time in U.S. history that has happened.
enacts the nation’s first law forbidding newspapers from reporting news of
Virginia becomes the only state to have its sodomy law’s breadth decided by
an Opinion of the Attorney General when he decides that the law outlaws
enacts the nation’s only law forbidding those convicted of sodomy from
obtaining a driver’s license.
Young Democrats become the first political organization in the United States
to endorse repeal of sodomy laws. The state’s Republican Governor refers to
them as “homocrats.”
repeals its sodomy law, but, in order to get enough votes to get it through
the legislature, must include a disclaimer that the state does not encourage
sex outside of marriage, the only such law in the nation.
sodomy was a crime in Wyoming from this date through 1977, Wyoming is the only
state in the nation that has no published sodomy cases.