Massachusetts Senators Take Stand for Equality, Voting to Strike Down Outdated Laws Criminalizing Love and Sexuality

Boston, Massachusetts – The Massachusetts state senate has made a significant step towards modernizing its legal system by passing a bill aimed at striking down outdated laws from its statute books. Although the US Supreme Court ruled anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional in 2003 and Massachusetts has recognized same-sex marriage since 2004, certain sections of state law still contain discriminatory restrictions on consensual sexual interactions among adults, according to state lawmakers.

These archaic laws not only criminalize sodomy and “unnatural acts,” but also include penalties for using religious terms such as the “Holy Name of God” in a curse. Despite courts deeming these laws largely irrelevant, Senate Democrats argue that their continued presence in state statutes poses a potential threat to the LGBTQ+ community and other residents of the Bay State.

Senator William Brownsberger of Belmont, who identifies as bisexual, cited a law from 1641 that states, “If any man lieth with mankind, as he lied with a woman, both of them shall have committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death.” Although the severity of the penalty has been reduced over time, the law still imposes a 20-year felony today.

“In 1879, the general court, with the same criminalization of love, said whoever commits ‘unnatural and lascivious acts with another person shall be punished by imprisonment,'” Brownsberger explained. This law, which has been interpreted to include acts of sodomy, carries a five-year felony sentence.

While these laws are no longer used to prosecute cases, Brownsberger argues that it is long overdue to update the outdated statutes. With concerns about the current Supreme Court potentially wavering on individual rights, Massachusetts prides itself on continuing to lead as a state that respects the rights of individuals and aims to eliminate archaic laws criminalizing love, which are rooted in patriarchal fear, notions of purity, and antiquated thinking.

Senator Julian Cyr of Truro highlighted that Massachusetts is the only state in New England that has yet to remove anti-sodomy laws from its books. Progress is being made, however, as the bill passed by state senators on Thursday (S 2551) would also repeal provisions related to “common nightwalking,” a term for prostitution. However, it is important to note that this does not affect the legality of prostitution or sex work.

Senator Becca Rausch of Needham has proposed an amendment to remove other archaic laws related to blasphemy, which currently punishes residents for using religious words such as “God,” “Jesus Christ,” or the “Holy Spirit” in curses or non-religious contexts.

These efforts to repeal outdated laws reflect a commitment to justice and equality in the state of Massachusetts. By eliminating discriminatory restrictions and symbols of a bygone era, lawmakers hope to create a more inclusive and progressive legal system that truly reflects the values and needs of its diverse population.