Criminal Justice

Repeal of anti-adultery law goes to New Hampshire's governor; 20 other states also have bans


New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan has indicated she’s likely to sign a bill repealing the state’s anti-adultery law.

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday voted for repeal and sent the bill to the governor, report the Associated Press and USA Today. New Hampshire is one of 21 states with laws that criminalize adultery, according to USA Today.

The New Hampshire law slated for repeal makes adultery a Class B misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $1,200, USA Today says. Other states with such laws generally classify adultery as a misdemeanor, although a few states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, make the crime a felony.

University of California at Berkeley law professor Melissa Murray tells USA Today there is little chance of prosecution under the laws, although adultery can have consequences in civil cases, such as custody disputes. Murray also said it’s “an open question” whether the laws are unconstitutional under Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court decision that overturned a law banning homosexual sodomy.

The only person testifying in support of the law at a March 25 hearing was a divorced man who sought to file a criminal adultery complaint with police against his ex-wife, according to a prior Associated Press story. “If we retain adultery as a crime, we may deter an otherwise law-abiding citizen … from falling into the trap of that repugnant behavior,” he said.

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