Last edited: April 21, 2007


New Jersey

  • Statute: Repealed 1979


            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            1978     After passage of a new criminal code that repealed the state’s sodomy law, Senator Joseph Maressa announces a crusade to reinstate consensual sodomy as a crime only for acts between people of the same sex.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.


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