New York lawmaker looking to repeal state law from 1907 that technically makes cheating on spouse illegal

Cheating on one’s spouse in New York state is technically illegal under a law enacted more than 100 years ago but one lawmaker is looking to change that.

Under a law passed in 1907, adultery in the Empire State remains a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to three months behind bars. But, a bill working its way through the New York Legislature would finally repeal the seldom-penalized law to make infidelity legal.

“It just makes no sense whatsoever and we’ve come a long way since intimate relationships between consenting adults are considered immoral,” said Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who has sponsored the bill appealing adultery. “It’s a joke. This law was someone’s expression of moral outrage.”

Lavine, a Democrat, added: “The state has no business regulating consensual sexual behavior between adults.”

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Under a law passed in 1907, adultery in New York remains a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to three months in prison. (Getty Images)

Lavine’s bill, A.4714, would decriminalize the act of adultery, which state code defines as when a person “engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse.”

The new bill passed unanimously through the Codes Committee in early March and passed in the full chamber on Monday by a vote of 137-10. It must now clear the Senate before it can be signed into law.

The last adultery charge in New York was filed in 2010 against a woman who was caught engaging in a sex act in a public park. It was later dropped.

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Only about a dozen people have been charged under New York’s adultery law, with just five cases resulting in convictions. They were subsequently sentenced to 90 days in jail.

Cheating on your spouse is illegal in New York — but the state might soon change that. A bill working its way through the New York Legislature could repeal a more than century old law that makes adultery a crime.  (AP Photos/Bebeto Matthews)

According to Lavine, the government should not be penalizing what consenting adults do behind closed doors.

The law was nearly removed in the 1960s following a state commission review of the entire penal code. The commission leader called adultery “a matter of private morality, not of law.”

It remained in place, however, after a politician argued its elimination might appear like the state was endorsing infidelity.

More than a dozen states that still have adultery laws, including in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan, where adultery is a felony offense. (Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)

More than a dozen states that still have adultery laws classify them as misdemeanors.

In Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan adultery is a felony offense.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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