One of the major reasons Rushing finally filed this legislation, he tells the Phoenix, was the manner in which former governor Mitt Romney found, and abused, the old and forgotten statute that prohibits issuing marriage licenses to out-of-state residents who can not legally marry in their home state. Romney ordered all city and town clerks to not issue marriage licenses to the same-sex couples seeking to get married in the only state that would marry them. The Supreme Judicial Court, which had just approved gay marriages in Massachusetts, nevertheless upheld Romney's interpretation of the residency statute, for while the statute might have been old and forgotten, it happened not to be unconstitutional and was still on the books.

All the more reason, says Rushing, to have the legislature “get into the habit of reviewing all of our general laws every five years or so, in order to get rid not only of laws that have become unconstitutional, but also have become undesirable.” The legislature routinely reviews the statutes for typographical errors and inconsistencies, he says. “Why not periodically get rid of laws that we no longer want?”

Rushing’s bill serves as a wake-up call, more than anything, to an oft-neglected, not-so-comical problem with modern criminal law: the old phrase “throw the book at him” has now morphed into throwing a veritable library of nutty laws. It’s time to trim the criminal code down to manageable size, and Rushing’s bill is a good first step.

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ARTICLES BY HARVEY SILVERGLATE AND JAN WOLFE
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