utah unmarried sex legal
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Soon, unmarried Utahans may be able to “do the wild thang,” if you get my meaning, without fear of arrest, although, in fairness, the vice cops haven’t shown any enforcement interest in quite awhile.

It’s true.

utah unmarried sex legal
Ezra and Flora Bensen’s Utah marriage certificate from 1926, stating that the bride and groom are being “joined together in the Holy Bonds of Matrimony.” (Ben PL, Flikr, Public Domain)

On March 6, the Utah state legislature formally decriminalized fornication, presumably soon making it totally OK for everyone in the state to legally enjoy sex outside of marriage for the first time ever, The Hill reported.

Who knows what excesses of hysteria this might ignite, including a stampede of early adapters balanced by the rage of discombobulated conservatives abruptly whisking their suddenly vulnerable women out of harm’s way.

After previously passing the Utah Senate, the free-love legislation then somewhat narrowly received final passage in the House, 41-32, effectively repealing the 1973 misdemeanor infraction of fornication. The approved bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Ray, has been sent to Republican Gov. Gary Herbert for signature or veto, and he has indicated he will sign it.

“As with all bills, our team will review the specific language before the governor takes out his signing pen. We are, however, supportive of this update to Utah’s criminal code,” Herbert’s office said in very judicious statement seemingly trying to pre-empt any accusations that the governor signed such titillating legislation with unseemly haste.

Although the long-ignored law carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, it was not enforced or prosecuted prior to the legislation. It is embedded in a hoary Utah criminal code chapter on offenses against the family.

So, it goes the way of other religiously sourced artifacts of American culture, such as laws against blasphemy still on the books of a number of states, as I’ve posted about before, although some have started stripping them from their constitutions and legal codes.

However, not everyone is happy in newly sex-modernized Utah, a state created by fundamentalists of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a., Mormons) in the 19th century and still a bastion of chaste Mormon conservativism today, despite some die-hard pockets of polygamy and debauchery here and there. Republican Rep. Keven Stratton expressed resignation to Salt Lake City news station Fox 13 after the vote:

“What is legally is often far below what is morally right,” Rep. Keven Stratton (R) said, according to Fox 13. “And I recognize our laws are not strong enough to rule a immoral people.”

Yet, Utah legislators are to be commended. They are on a modernizing roll regarding sexual issues, having previously passed a bill decriminalizing adultery and sodomy among consenting adults. Rep. Ray, the sponsor of the unmarried-sex bill, told WGNO TV of New Orleans, Louisiana, that court rulings showed such laws were unenforceable.

Three cheers for reason over ancient religiously mandated chastity.

Of course, Utah valiantly resisted accepting same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it legal, but the court eventually forced the issue. This latest legislation on sex outside marriage they accomplished without any assistance.


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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...