The end of adultery in New York

There are laws that are severe, benign, unjust, absurd or stupid.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 10:25
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The end of adultery in New York

There are laws that are severe, benign, unjust, absurd or stupid. There are laws that fall under their own weight, outdated according to the current times.

Within this world of criminal regulations, New York still has one of the most sterile regulations that exist. No matter how much it is punished, that even divine justice threatens the cauldrons of hell, nothing prevents adultery from existing or simply falling in love with someone other than the husband or wife. It would be said that it is part of the human condition.

So in this supposedly progressive place, cheating on one's partner is still a criminal offense. Adulterers, although they are the most persecuted in the world, are not only sinners, but also criminals.

But after 120 years of validity, everything is ready to put an end to what most consider an anachronism.

The state legislature voted almost unanimously on the proposal to repeal the adultery law. A Senate committee gave the go-ahead and it is expected that, at any time this week, the vote will take place in this other chamber, without any evidence of significant opposition. So the time is approaching when Governor Kathy Hochul will sign her signature on what will be the new law, historic of course.

“No law that criminalizes intimate conduct between consensual adults deserves to appear in the criminal codes,” Democrat Charles Lavine, promoter of the update, told The New York Times.

For Lavine, who describes himself as happily married for 54 years, the matter is not material for jokes and gibberish. “It does not serve as a deterrent. It’s just a celebration of someone’s concept of their own morality,” he added in Politico.

The law still in force in New York declares guilty of adultery anyone who has sexual relations with another person when their spouse is alive or that other person has a spouse. It is classified as a misdemeanor, a circumstance that, according to Lavine, makes it more onerous because it is not tried by a jury, but depends on the determination of a magistrate. The penalty can mean up to three months in jail and a fine of $500.

Although it is still in force in a handful of states – in Oklahoma, Michigan and Wisconsin adultery is a serious crime, although there is no evidence that they have used it recently – in most of the US they rejected the rule or never thought about it. apply it.

The closest case in New York occurred in 2010. A 43-year-old married woman was arrested after it was discovered that she was having relations with a man who was not her husband in a public park in Batavia. Both were charged with lewd behavior. However, only she, Suzanne Corona, was accused of adultery. There was a lot of media stir and her mugshot was published in the press around the world. She couldn't go anywhere without hearing the murmurs that arose as she walked.

If Corona closes the list – there have been no more than a dozen New Yorkers charged in the last half century – the history of the law began in 1907, apparently motivated by the attempt to reduce the number of divorces when adultery was the only path to a legal separation. Hence, sex outside of marriage began to be criminalized.

Ten days into its validity, railroad businessman Patrick H. Hirsch, who was 40 years old, entered the list as the first detainee. He had left his wife Elizabeth in Chicago, taken their common son and settled in New York with his mistress, Ruby Yeargin, a 25-year-old shop assistant. The jilted wife hired a detective, who revealed the lovers' whereabouts in Manhattan, before going to the police.

Time has passed and the way we view marriage has changed. The adultery law lost its purpose when New York, in 2010, was the last state to adopt no-fault divorce. Couples can separate without proof of infidelity, cruelty, kidnapping or abandonment. California had established it 40 years ago.