Saturday, November 30, 2013


When I asked various friends and family members to list the Ten Commandments -the alleged cornerstone of the American legal system and the biggest no-nos in Judeo-Christian theology-, I found most people could not name all ten.  Instead, many confused other behaviors viewed as sins as part of the Ten Commandments. Fornication -or premarital sex- was a common erroneous entry in the Big 10.

This next set of maps focuses on issues of sex.

Today I start with laws criminalizing premarital sex...or good ol' fornication.  These fornication statutes are distinct from adultery laws I've discussed earlier.  In 1996 sixteen states retained laws criminalizing sex outside of marriage.  In three -Arizona, New Mexico and North Dakota- premarital sex itself was not illegal but a couple living together outside of marriage was prohibited.

A number of these laws are still on the books, but they have rarely been enforced in the late 20th century. The 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision by the US Supreme Court struck down the last remaining consensual sodomy laws specifically.  The decision also firmly removed the government from the bedrooms of American citizens, and it is thought to have made fornication laws unenforceable.

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