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April 01, 2019

‘Fornication’ Finally Legalized in Utah, But the Vote Was Close

Utah Governor Gary Herbert this week signed a bill that finally made “fornication” a legal act in the state, but a vote to pass the bill repealing the archaic law was surprisingly close, with 32 of Utah’s 73 state representatives voting to keep the anti-fornication law on the books, while 41 voted for repeal, according to a Fox News report.   The law defined “fornication” as any “voluntary” act of “sexual intercourse” between unmarried people. The penalty for committing the “Class B Misdemeanor” offense was a maximum of six months in jail, or a $1,000 fine. But police in Utah had never enforced the law, and in fact, several court cases had already invalidated the law. But it remained part of Utah’s criminal code anyway. Unlike many similarly archaic anti-sex laws in other states that often date back to the 19th century, Utah passed its law prohibiting sex between unmarried people in 1973, and support for the law apparently remains significant today in the state. “What is legally is often far below what is morally right,” said Republican Rep. Keven Stratton when the fornixation repeal was debated in the state legislature. “I recognize our laws are not strong enough to rule a immoral people.” The law was not the only ban on consensual sex that was removed from Utah’s criminal code last week. On Monday, Herbert signed a bill that repealed a law against adultery between consenting adults. Several other seemingly out-of-date laws remain at least technically in effect in Utah, however, including a law requiring bartenders to stand behind a curtain while preparing mixed cocktail drinks, and a law banning happy hours. The fornication-ban repeal was sponsored by Democratic State Senator Karen Mayne, who told NPR, “You hear all over the U.S. how you have antiquated laws about horses in the streets and all kinds of things, so we wanted to make them modern-day, in the now.” Photo By Jkinsocal / Wikimedia Commons 

 
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