Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Footnote of the Day: Colonial Criminal Sodomy Statutes

Footnote 5 provides:

Byron White

Criminal sodomy laws in effect in 1791:

Connecticut: 1 Public Statute Laws of the State of Connecticut, 1808, Title LXVI, ch. 1, § 2 (rev. 1672).
Delaware: 1 Laws of the State of Delaware, 1797, ch. 22, § 5 (passed 1719).
Georgia had no criminal sodomy statute until 1816, but sodomy was a crime at common law, and the General Assembly adopted the common law of England as the law of Georgia in 1784. The First Laws of the State of Georgia, pt. 1, p. 290 (1981).
  Maryland had no criminal sodomy statute in 1791. Maryland's Declaration of Rights, passed in 1776, however, stated that "the inhabitants of Maryland are entitled to the common law of England," and sodomy was a crime at common law. 4 W. Swindler, Sources and Documents of United States Constitutions 372 (1975).
Massachusetts: Acts and Laws passed by the General Court of Massachusetts, ch. 14, Act of Mar. 3, 1785.
New Hampshire passed its first sodomy statute in 1718. Acts and Laws of New Hampshire 1680-1726, p. 141 (1978).
Sodomy was a crime at common law in New Jersey at the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The State enacted its first criminal sodomy law five years later. Acts of the Twentieth General Assembly, Mar. 18, 1796, ch. DC, § 7.
New York: Laws of New York, ch. 21 (passed 1787).
At the time of ratification of the Bill of Rights, North Carolina had adopted the English statute of Henry VIII outlawing sodomy. See Collection of the Statutes of the Parliament of England in Force in the State of North Carolina, ch. 17, p. 314 (Martin ed. 1792).
Pennsylvania: Laws of the Fourteenth General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, ch. CLIV, § 2 (passed 1790).
Rhode Island passed its first sodomy law in 1662. The Earliest Acts and Laws of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1647-1719, p. 142 (1977).
South Carolina: Public Laws of the State of South Carolina, p. 49 (1790).
At the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, Virginia had no specific statute outlawing sodomy, but had adopted the English common law. 9 Hening's Laws of Virginia, ch. 5, § 6, p. 127 (1821) (passed 1776).

Footnote 6 of the opinion then lists the "Criminal sodomy statutes in effect in 1868." 

These footnotes are from the opinion of Justice White (pictured above via) for the Court in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), in which the Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit, and held Georgia's sodomy statute constitutional, based in large part on its reasoning that these criminal statutes formed a background against which a "claim that a right to engage in such conduct is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" is, at best, facetious." 

Bowers v. Hardwick was reversed by Lawrence v. Texas,539 U.S. 558 (2003). 

RR

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