Last edited: April 10, 2007



  • Statute: 272-34, Crime Against Nature (Found unconstitutional by Doe v. Reilly)
  • Penalty: 20 years
  • Classification: Felony
  • Restrictions: Applies only to anal intercourse.
  • Statute: 272-35, Unnatural and Lascivious Acts (Found unconstitutional by Doe v. Reilly)
  • Penalty: 5 years/$100-$1000
  • Classification: Felony
  • Restrictions: Applies only to oral sex.

Unnatural and Lascivious Acts has been held not apply to private consensual adult behavior. Commonwealth v. Balthazar, Supreme Judicial Court 1974. The ruling may also apply to the Crime Against Nature. Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders asked the Supreme Judicial Court to strike down the Crime Against Nature law. The case, Doe v. Reilly, reaffirmed Balthazar on February 21, 2002.

From George Painter: The '74 and '77 court cases wiped out both the CAN and ULA laws, since the court's opinions explicitly overruled the 1954 Jaquith case and decided that, notwithstanding the case being brought under the ULA law, private consensual activity was constitutionally protected in the state.


            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.



Chapter 272: Section 34. Crime against nature.

Section 34. Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years.

Case Law

GLAD’s lawsuit, Doe v. Reilly, asks the highest court of Massachusetts to strike these laws in their entirety and rid New England of its last sodomy laws. The case was found by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to lack merit as the law cannot be applied to private consensual acts. It was sent back to lower courts for dismissal. 

Repeal Bills

Repeal of Archaic Sex Laws (House bills 2940, 2939 and 2943)

The Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and the LGBT Political Alliance of Western Massachusetts have been working with a broad coalition of lesbian and gay organizations over the past year for passage of a bill repealing archaic laws. Included in the group working for repeal of these laws are the Equal Rights League, the Gay and Lesbian Bar Association, the Gay and Lesbian Defenders, the Attorney General's office, and the Fenway Victims Recovery Program.

The Criminal Justice Committee voted to send the bill to a "study committee," effectively killing it for this year.

The working group is continuing to meet and to strategize ways of bringing the bill out of committee this year (not very likely) and planning for next year.

Check out the current status of the bill from the State's web site.

Repeal Strategies

The most fun you'll ever have in a pledge drive! The Bisexual Resource Center presents the Sodomy Challenge. Try this at home!




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