There is an interesting fight in Minnesota where State Senator Ellen Anderson made the modest suggestion that the state repeal laws making it illegal for a married woman to cheat on her husband and another statute that makes it a crime for single women to have sex at all. The response of the powerful Minnesota Family Council is to call for the law not to be repealed but strengthened to make it a crime for men to have sex outside of marriage.
An adulterous woman today can charged with a gross misdemeanor with a prison sentence of one year, plus a possible fine of up to $3,000. This was once a standard “morality law” in the states. For a prior column criticizing such laws and questioning their constitutionality, click here.
Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council insists that “they’re important. They send a message . . . When you are dealing with a marriage, it’s not just a private activity or a private institution. It’s a very public institution. It has enormous consequences for the rest of society.”
These laws are presumptively unconstitutional. However, it is the continued use of criminal law to force people to comply with religious values that is troubling. This is precisely the view of the law enforced by religious extremists throughout the world. This is, as Mr. Prichard suggests, a matter of great symbolism even if the laws are not enforced. It stands for the proposition that consenting adults can be jailed in the United States for failing to maintain the moral principles of their neighbors.
For the full story, click here.