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Empire State Adultery

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I can see why New York politicians would want to repeal this law.

In the halls of the New York State Capitol, with a budget deadline bearing down, it seems that all that anyone wants to talk about is adultery.

An antiquated but seldom-enforced state law categorizes adultery as a crime, and past efforts to repeal it have gone nowhere. But that seems poised to change.

The Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill to repeal the adultery law last month, and a Senate committee last week moved a matching bill to the floor for a full vote that could come as soon as this week.

While adultery is still illegal in a handful of states (in Oklahoma, Michigan and Wisconsin, adultery is considered a felony offense), the vast majority of states repealed their adultery laws long ago or never outlawed it in the first place.

New York’s law declares a person guilty of adultery “when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse,” according to New York’s penal code. Adultery is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, and it is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The push to decriminalize adultery is about more than updating the penal code to reflect modern values, Mr. Lavine said. He viewed recent events, including an Alabama judge’s ruling that frozen embryos in test tubes are children and the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision rejecting the constitutional right to an abortion, as evidence of a growing political desire to foist governmental oversight on sex and chip away at Americans’ assumed right to privacy.

“We are all in danger of losing our rights,” Mr. Lavine said. “Those most likely to be prosecuted for this crime, not only in New York, but throughout the United States and even worldwide, are women. I think it’s time for our state legislatures throughout the United States to stand up for human rights. And women’s rights are human rights.”

I mean, if Republicans are going to start invoking the Comstock Act, yeah, you gotta do this.

But also, this still being a crime given the histories of leading New York politicians is hilarious.

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