Until this week, Section 76-7-104 of the Utah Code said any unmarried person who “voluntarily engage[s] in sexual intercourse with another” was guilty of a class B misdemeanor… which theoretically meant having sex after a date could land you a six-month prison sentence and a $1,000 fine.
That law was finally overturned on Wednesday with a signature from Gov. Gary Herbert.
State Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne sponsored the bill and tells NPR that it was just a small piece in Utah’s criminal code that needed to be revamped. “You hear all over the U.S. how you have antiquated laws about horses in the streets and all kinds of things, so we wanted to make them modern-day, in the now,” Mayne says.
Even then, some legislators didn’t want it repealed because they felt it was immoral to legalize sex outside of marriage. But even in Utah, that argument didn’t work. It’s hard to criminalize what people already do (and what they would continue to do regardless), especially when no one’s getting hurt and everyone involved is consenting.
While no one had been prosecuted under the old law in recent memory, it certainly hovered in the minds of some people:
In a 1991 Deseret News report, an unmarried woman was quoted as saying she had “real concrete fear of criminal prosecution” for breaking the fornication law. “I am aware that last year another person in Salt Lake County was criminally prosecuted for such conduct,” she said in a lawsuit filed that year.
Well, she won’t have to worry now. There’s no legal penalty, even in theory, for consensual sex in Utah.
It’s about time.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Scott for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)