Finally, commies, blasphemers, and fornicators can relax. A new bill proposed by State Representative Byron Rushing (D-South End) aims to repeal archaic Massachusetts General Laws designed to rein in immorality. Long dormant, these laws can be used, technically, to throw you in jail for things like providing birth control to an unmarried woman, cheating on your spouse, spitting in public, or committing “unnatural and lascivious acts” (think Ramrod, Saturday night, dark bathroom stall).
“There have been concerns about unconstitutional laws on the books; laws that criminalize activities that people don’t think are criminal,” Rushing says, as well as laws that are inactive or contradictory to current legislation. “And some of these laws are just silly.”
That’s an understatement. When was the last time you contemplated racing a horse near a camp meeting? And why should MDs alone have the right to apply tattoos when that needle-wielding, four-hundred pound goateed bald dude who inked a butterfly on my college roommate’s boob did a perfectly fine job?
Co-sponsored by 15 other assembly members (including senators Edward Sugustus and Pat Jehlen), Rushing’s bill was prompted by Governor Mitt Romney’s successful effort to enforce a 1913 law barring people who cannot legally marry in their own states from marrying here. Originally intended to prevent out-of-state interracial couples from getting hitched in Massachusetts and long since ignored, the law was deployed as ammunition in Romney’s fight against same-sex marriage. When asked to rule on the governor’s enforcement of the 1913 law, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court — which ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in 2003 — upheld Romney’s effort to uphold the 1913 law in 2006.
That long-ignored yet now infamous law is conspicuously absent from Rushing’s list. “It’s what happens when you leave things dormant; they can be resurrected,” Rushing says. “[The 1913 law] would have been on this bill before Goodridge. Now, that law is active, so that repeal is a separate legislative process.”
Rushing hopes that his bill is a first step toward fine-tooth-combing the Massachusetts General Laws every four to six years, and that undoubtedly serves a high public service that affects everyone. After all, who hasn’t hocked a loogey on a public sidewalk now and again?
: This Just In
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