Last edited: May 08, 2004


Fun, First, and Unique Facts

By George Painter
Copyright, George Painter 2004


            1822     Despite 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.

            1854     Alabama 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.

            1933     Alabama 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 prosecution.

            1935     The 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.

            1952     An 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 against him.

            1984     An 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 other men.”


            1867     When 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.

            1955     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.”

            1971     The 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.

American Samoa

            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.


            1913     Just 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[.]”

            1944     The 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.

            1962     The 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.


            1864     Arkansas 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.

            1950     Although 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 encounter.

            1955     Arkansas 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.

            1975     Arkansas 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.


            1801     Though 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 squad.

            1850     California’s 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.

            1897     The 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.

            1909     California is the first state to adopt a sterilization law covering “sexual perverts.”

            1915     A California appellate court is the first in the nation to ponder, in a written opinion, the nature of human sexuality in a sodomy case.

            1915     California 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 “oral copulation.”

            1919     A 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.

            1925     A 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.

            1927     A 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.

            1939     California enacts the nation’s first law requiring revocation of a teacher’s license if the teacher is convicted of sodomy or oral copulation.

            1947     California 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.

            1951     A California appellate court rules that Gay men are vagrant per se, permitting them to be jailed without committing any criminal act.

            1962     The 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.

            1969     California enacts a unique law, signed by Governor Ronald Reagan, permitting the treatment of sexual psychopaths by means of prayer alone.


            1945     The Colorado Supreme Court, in upholding a sodomy conviction, becomes the first in the nation to refer to the defendant as “queer” in its opinion.

            1974     The 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 of sodomy.


            1656     New 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.

            1821     A 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 fellatio.

            1863     The Connecticut Supreme Court is the first in the nation to find that deadly force is allowable to prevent an act of sodomy.

            1891     The 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.

            1970     Connecticut’s 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.


            1905     Delaware becomes the last state in the nation to eliminate time in the pillory for acts of sodomy.

            1918     A 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.

            1962     The Delaware Supreme Court rules that the state’s strict ban on probation for sodomy can be ignored by courts.

District of Columbia

            1858     Though 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.

            1897     A 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.

            1909     The 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.

            1972     The District government enters into a stipulation agreement not to prosecute private, consensual sodomy.

            1981     After 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.


            1842     Florida 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.

            1845     Three years after making sodomy a capital offense, Florida enacts a law forbidding anyone convicted of sodomy from being a witness in a trial.

            1921     Probably 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.”

            1943     The 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 vaginas?”

            1943     The Florida Supreme Court finds that, if death were reinstated as the penalty for consensual sodomy, it would be constitutional.

            1960     A 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.

            1973     A 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.

            1975     A trial court Miami is the first to find a Gay bathhouse a private place where sexual activity is constitutionally protected.


            1817     Sodomy 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.

            1833     Georgia 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.

            1938     A Georgia appellate court publishes the first known case concerning a sodomy prosecution for interfemoral intercourse. The court says that this does not constitute sodomy.

            1939     The 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.

            1953     The 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.

            1968     Georgia 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.


            1933     Sodomy 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.


            1841     A 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.”

            1946     The 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.

            1983     The 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 time.


            1913     The 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.

            1971     Idaho 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.

            1990     An 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 Limberhand.


            1827     Illinois is the first state to prohibit voting and jury service by anyone convicted of sodomy.

            1897     The 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.

            1913     The 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.

            1961     In enacting a comprehensive criminal code revision, Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to repeal its consensual sodomy law.


            1807     An 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.

            1827     Indiana 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.

            1907     Indiana enacts the nation’s (and world’s) first sterilization law. The first law covers all “confirmed criminals,” which could include those convicted of sodomy.

            1953     The 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.

            1964     Indiana 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.


            1892     Iowa 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.

            1904     The 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.

            1925     The Iowa Supreme Court is the first to get a sodomy defense of drunkeness. It rejects the argument.

            1970     Iowa 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.

            1983     Kansas becomes the first state to amend its incest law specifically to make same-sex incest a crime.

            1989     The 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 cunnilingus.


            1918     A 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 between humans.

            1954     Kentucky 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 provision.


            1824     A 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 the proposal.

            1882     The Louisiana Supreme Court is the first in the nation to reject a challenge to a sodomy law as too vague to be constitutional.

            1896     Louisiana 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.

            1900     The 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.”

            1942     The 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 their consideration.”

            1962     Louisiana becomes the first state to bifurcate its sodomy law to include an “aggravated crime against nature” crime.

            1982     Louisiana becomes the first state to make solicitation for compensation of an act of sodomy to be a completed act of sodomy.

            2000     The 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.


            1955     The Maine Supreme Court is the first in the nation to rule that masturbating another person does not violate the state’s sodomy law.


            1632     With 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 colony began.

            1793     Maryland enacts a unique sodomy law that permits those convicted of sodomy to be put to work cleaning and repairing streets.

            1809     Maryland enacts the nation’s first law making murder committed as a consequence of sodomy a capital offense.

            1810     The 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 defendant’s indictment.

            1918     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.

            1972     A 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 either recommendation.

            1990     The Maryland Court of Appeals, ignoring four previous decisions, rules that the state’s sodomy law did not apply to heterosexual activity and never had.


            1648     Elizabeth Johnson is the first woman known to be prosecuted for sexual relations with another woman, in Massachusetts Bay Colony.

            1697     The 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.

            1821     The Massachusetts Supreme Court decides the nation’s first obscenity case that includes same-sex eroticism.

            1921     The Massachusetts Supreme Court issues the first reported decision in the nation concerning sexual relations in a bath house.

            1954     The Massachusetts Supreme Court upholds the state’s sodomy law in the first case in the nation to issue a broad challenge to it.


            1897     Michigan enacts a unique law forbidding the debauching of boys, either by a male or a female.

            1903     Michigan 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 1895.

            1935     Michigan 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.


            1937     The 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.

            1963     The 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 handle.


            1890     Mississippi adopts a unique provision in its new constitution to exclude the public from trials for sodomy.

            1942     The 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.


            1846     The Missouri Supreme Court, deciding a slander case involving an accusation of sodomy, publishes the word “fuck” in its opinion.

            1897     The Missouri Supreme Court handles the first reported sodomy case in the United States in which the defendant is a police officer.

            1915     A Missouri appellate court is the first to decide that being called a “cock sucker” was actionable as slander.

            1994     Missouri 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 couples.


            1938     The Montana Supreme Court reverses a sodomy conviction that was based apparently only on the close friendship of the two defendants.

            1952     The 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.

            1959     The 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).

            1972     The 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.

            1981     Montana 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.

            1991     Montana amends its sodomy law to include the nation’s first explicit protection from disclosure of treatment for a sexual transmitted disease to prosecutors.


            1913     Nebraska 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.

            1926     The 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.

            1948     The Nebraska Supreme Court rules that, in effect, some victims of sodomitical assaults “deserve” the assault.

            1977     Nebraska 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.


            1978     The Nevada Supreme Court rules that the sodomy law is violated merely by licking a penis, something other states have rejected, requiring actual penetration by the mouth.

New Hampshire

            1962     A 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.

            1975     A 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

            1704     The 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.

            1796     In 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 discharged.”

            1923     The 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.

            1957     The 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.

            1976     The 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 the U.S.

            1978     After 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

            1961     The 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.

            1972     Appellate 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 1975.

New York

            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.

            1846     The earliest known case of a civil servant being dismissed for making a sodomitical solicitation occurs with a New York City police officer.

            1903     Due 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.

            1950     New York becomes the first state in the nation to reduce the penalty for consensual sodomy from a felony to a misdemeanor.

            1952     The 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.

            1958     A 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.

            1961     The 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 partners.

            1965     In 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 married couples.

            1969     A 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.

            1997     New 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.

North Carolina

            1854     North 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.

            1856     A 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.

            1964     Federal 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 sodomy.

North Dakota

            1917     The 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 peanut.”

Northern Mariana Islands

            1952     Sodomy 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 civilian executive.


            1815     Ohio 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.

            1876     Ohio becomes the first state in the nation to outlaw the possession of “sex toys.”

            1885     Ohio 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.

            1886     An Ohio appellate court becomes the first in the nation to rule that two women can not be prosecuted for sodomy.

            1895     An Ohio court is the first in the nation to decide that an act of extramarital sodomy constitutes adultery.

            1908     Ohio becomes the first state in the nation to prohibit probation for anyone convicted of sodomy.

            1953     Columbus 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.

            1957     An Ohio court, handling a divorce case, is the first in the nation to find a constitutional right of married couples to engage in sodomy.

            1965     An 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.

            1965     The 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 defendant.

            1972     Ohio 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.”


            1890     Oklahoma’s first criminal code makes explicit that married couples can be prosecuted for marital sodomy.

            1935     An Oklahoma appellate court becomes the first court in the nation to rule that an act of cunnilingus is a “crime against nature.”

            1986     The 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.

            1988     Oklahoma enacts a state RICO law that applies to businesses involved in criminal activity, including sodomy. This apparently can be used against bath houses.


            1843     Early 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.

            1913     Oregon 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.”

            1913     Oregon 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 the law.

            1955     Oregon enacts the first law in the nation forbidding the kidnapping of a child for purposes of engaging in sodomy.

            1966     The Oregon Supreme Court upholds a sodomy conviction based on a neighbor reporting a Gay couple to police.

            1988     The 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.


            1682     A 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.

            1700     Pennsylvania’s 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.

            1722     Pennsylvania 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.

            1786     Pennsylvania becomes the first state to abolish the death penalty for sodomy.

            1879     Pennsylvania enacts the nation’s first law explicitly covering fellatio.  The law ignores cunnilingus.

            1890     The 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.

            1933     An appellate court upholds the conviction of a man for sodomy who asked to strip naked in the courtroom to prove that he was “normal.”

            1946     The 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.

Puerto Rico

            1937     Puerto Rico enacts the nation’s last sexual sterilization law and the last that covers “sexual perverts.”

            1967     The 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.”

            1974     Puerto 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.

Rhode Island

            1729     Rhode Island’s new sodomy law creates a statute of limitations of only ten days.

            1798     Rhode 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.

            1972     The Rhode Island legislature enacts a unique law to permit compensation to anyone killed or injured as a result of specified crimes, including “the crime against nature.”

South Carolina

            1869     South Carolina abolishes the death penalty for sodomy, but doesn’t establish a replacement penalty.  This oversight isn’t corrected for three years.

            1895     South Carolina adopts the first constitutional ban on voting by those convicted of sodomy. In 1970, South Carolina voters repeal this provision.

South Dakota

            1976     In 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 15.


            1829     Tennessee 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.

            1975     The Tennessee Supreme Court all but begs the Tennessee legislature to repeal the state’s sodomy law.

            1996     The 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.


            1836     Texas 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 wrote this.

            1873     The 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.

            1893     The 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 constitute sodomy.

            1896     The 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 claim.

            1898     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 should devour.”

            1907     The 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.

            1970     The 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.

            1971     The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the first to limit the right to privacy in public restroom stalls to those stalls closed and locked.

            1973     Texas 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.

            2003     The Texas law is invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision that struck down sodomy laws throughout the nation.


            1949     The Utah Supreme Court is the first to discuss the Kinsey Report in a sodomy decision.

            1969     Utah 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.


            1899     The 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.


            1625     Richard 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.

            1777     A 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.

            1812     The 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.

            1916     The 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.

Virgin Islands


            1853     The 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.

            1889     Washington is the first state in the nation to adopt a Constitution with an explicit right to privacy therein.

            1893     After 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.

            1909     Washington enacts the nation’s first law forbidding newspapers from reporting news of sodomy-related crimes.

West Virginia

            1956     West 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 cunnilingus.


            1959     Wisconsin enacts the nation’s only law forbidding those convicted of sodomy from obtaining a driver’s license.

            1966     Wisconsin 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.”

            1983     Wisconsin 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.


            1868     Although 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.

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