Last edited: January 07, 2005

Georgia Court Strikes Down Unmarried Sex Law

The Associated Press, January 14, 2003

ATLANTA—The Georgia Supreme Court struck down a 170-year-old law that made it a crime for unmarried people to have sex.

The ruling Monday came in the case of a 16-year-old boy discovered having sex with his girlfriend in the bedroom of her home. The young woman’s mother made the discovery.

“Our opinion simply affirms that ... the government may not reach into the bedroom of a private residence and criminalize the private, noncommercial, consensual sexual acts of two persons legally capable of consenting to those acts,” Chief Justice Norman Fletcher wrote.

Under Georgia law, the age of consent is 16.

Fletcher also wrote that nothing in the ruling should be read to address parents’ rights “to regulate what occurs inside their home, including who enters their house and under what circumstances.”

Fornication laws remain on the books in about 10 states and the District of Columbia. Courts have struck down such statutes in Florida, Virginia and New Jersey.

Following his conviction, Jesse McClure, now 17, was ordered to pay a fine and write an essay explaining why he should not have had sex. He wrote that it wasn’t the court’s business.

“Invading personal privacy just isn’t right,” McClure said Monday. “It now goes that way for everybody.”

In 1998, the state Supreme Court overturned an anti-sodomy law, ruling it violated the Georgia Constitution’s guarantee of a right to privacy.

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