Last edited: April 28, 2005



  • Statute: Declared unconstitutional, 1999. 27-553, Sodomy
  • Penalty: 10 years
  • Classification: Felony
  • Restrictions: None.
  • Statute: Declared unconstitutional, 1998. 27-554, Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practices
  • Penalty: 10 years/$1000
  • Classification: Felony
  • Restrictions: None.

27-554, Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practices, found not to be constitutional when applied to noncommercial, heterosexual activity in private. Schochet v. State, 1990.

Schochet v. State found to apply equally to homosexual acts. Williams v. Glendening, 1998.

27-553 found to also be unconstitutional in a 1999 settlement with the ACLU which argued Williams v. Glendening.


§ 553. Sodomy

Every person convicted of the crime of sodomy shall be sentenced to the penitentiary for not more than ten years.

§ 554. Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practices

Every person who is convicted of taking into his or her mouth the sexual organ of any other person or animal, or who shall be convicted of placing his or her sexual organ in the mouth of any other person or animal, or who shall be convicted of committing any other unnatural or perverted sexual practice with any other person or animal, shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or be imprisoned in jail or in the house of correction or in the penitentiary for a period not exceeding ten years, or shall be both fined and imprisoned within the limits above prescribed in the discretion of the court.

And in any indictment for the commission of any of the acts, hereby declared to be offenses, it shall not be necessary to set forth the particular unnatural or perverted sexual practice with the commission of which the defendant may be charged, nor to set forth the particular manner in which said unnatural or perverted sexual practice was committed, but it shall be sufficient if the indictment set forth that the defendant committed a certain unnatural and perverted sexual practice with a person or animal, as the case may be.


            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.

Date: Wednesday, July 14, 1999 8:35 AM
Subject: *QL*: Tulane Univ article on sodomy laws by Dirk Selland

Dirk Selland (from Selland v. Perry, 905 F. Supp 260 (D. Md 1995) challenging Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) has recently had published his essay "Will Maryland Enter the Twenty-First Century on the Right Direction by Rescinding Its Ancient Sodomy Statutes?" in Tulane University School of Law Law and Sexuality, A Review of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Legal Issues, Volume 8, 1998, pp. 672-688.

I urged those of you with access to a law library to read it. (I don’t know whether it is yet on the w.w.w.) It presents a very detailed history of sodomy laws, back to colonial times, and a history of state litigation as well as Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and the recent litigation in Maryland. At the ends, he concludes "The issue of equal rights and civil justice cannot be randomly supported simply based on which group seeks protection at the moment. Equal rights, whether for homosexuals, racial minorities, women, or the disabled represent the same context in which present day issues such as repealing a sodomy statute that targetrs gays must be considered."

This essay was (apparently) submitted to a NLGLA Writing Competition and published as a result.




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