Old Laws: Funny or Dangerous?

Massachusetts has some old, sometimes funny morality laws about cursing and other no-nos. But sometimes those laws play havoc with modern-day living. Is it time to clear the books?

Massachusetts is famous for its out-of-date laws. The Boston Globe cites a few, like a cursing ban at sporting events. But there are other laws, passed more than 100 years ago, which could complicate present-day political and legal dilemmas.

These old laws sometimes have a major effect on modern day issues. Representative Byron Rushing, D-South End, reminded the Globe that Governor Mitt Romney used a 1913 law about residency rules to prevent out-of-state gay couples from marrying in Massachusetts. That old law was scrubbed from the books in 2008, five years after it was cited by Romney.

The 19th-century anti-abortion laws are a particularly thorny issue, according to the Globe. They may be relics of a time past, but that didn't stop the Essex County District Attorney's office from charging a Lawrence woman using an 1845 statute in a 2007 case.

What do you think? Does the state need to clear out all these antiquated laws from the books, or is this a low priority for the legislature this year? Do the laws add quirk and humor to the commonwealth, or are they an embarrassing reminder of a less tolerant time? Tell us in the comments below.

Joe Whipple January 05, 2013 at 09:42 PM
If a law is causing no harm, leave it alone. Every change can have unanticipated consequences, and those consequences could be undesirable. Legislators should be solving actual problems, not looking for busywork and making up stuff to do.
Margo Killoran January 06, 2013 at 03:12 AM
I've probably broken most of them... including the one about only having sex in the missionary position... I doubt I'm alone in that one!
Restless January 07, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Knowing you Margo I can believe it. XXXX
Sean Ward January 07, 2013 at 11:14 PM
The two examples given are not "funny old laws" at all. The reference to the 19th-century anti-abortion laws is talking about an 18 year old girl that took ulcer pills to try to abort her own 25 week fetus. The baby was born and lived for 4 days before it died. This is disgusting and that girl needs to spend some time in jail if for no other reason then to keep her from getting pregnant again. The 1913 law makes sense too. Regardless of where you stand on gay marriage it isn't good for people from other states to go to other states to just do whatever they want when it's illegal where they live. If you want to come here and take advantage of our fabulous state then move here and start paying taxes in it. Don't just use us for your personal agenda then go back home.
Zombie Dogs January 08, 2013 at 01:29 AM
I do love living in a state where I'd face the same fine for possessing up to an ounce of weed as I would for releasing a dubstep remix of the Star Spangled Banner.


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