Adultery Law Does Not Belong On The Books

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Everyone knows that if you cheat on your spouse and if you get caught, there will be a price to pay. Who knew the consequences could come with a price tag of more than $900?

This week, two court documents came across a Payson Roundup reporter's desk citing two people for adultery, along with a conviction and a fine for punishment.

At first we laughed. We thought we must have misread the law. But it turns out that Arizona State Statute 13-1408, put on the books in 1977, classifies adultery as a Class 3 misdemeanor.

The law reads, "A married person who has sexual intercourse with another than his or her spouse and an unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with a married person not his or her spouse, commits adultery. When the act is committed between parties only one of whom is married, both shall be punished ... No prosecution for adultery shall be commenced except upon complaint of the husband or wife."

Upon first reading, this seems like the kind of outdated law that gets cases like the recent one here in Payson retold as a joke on late night television or as a blurb in News of the Weird.

A little Web research revealed that adultery is against the law -- not just as a breach of the marital contract, but as an actual crime -- in 20 states.

We believe the government has no place in people's bedrooms.

According to the marital contract, if a spouse commits adultery, the victim has the right to sue for divorce and be awarded financial compensation for the breach of contract.

Taking such a private matter to court, by having the offending spouse arrested and fined, seems to make little sense.

Though adultery is still a crime in 20 states, it is a law that is rarely enforced.

Seeing laws like this one, not only on the books, but in use, make our Criminal Code appear to be something of a dusty attic -- a storage space for antiquated ideas and relics of the past that is in desperate need of some fresh air and a thorough housecleaning.

We are not saying that adultery is an acceptable practice or that monogamy in marriage is an outdated idea. But does this law belong on the books?

We believe it does not.

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