RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A legislative panel has rejected a bill to decriminalize adultery in Virginia.

Media outlets report that the Senate Courts of Justice Committee killed the measure on a voice vote Monday.

State law classifies marital infidelity as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250. Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell of Fairfax County proposed keeping the $250 penalty but making adultery a civil offense.

Surovell said that in the last decade, there have been just eight successful prosecutions for adultery in Virginia. He said only about a dozen states treat adultery as a crime.

Republican Sen. Ryan McDougle of Hanover County said that while there may not be many convictions, the charge can be a useful tool in prosecuting other offenses.

Give me a break.  Virginia still really wants in your bedroom (or motel room or neighbor’s bedroom)

Why on earth should adultery be illegal?   First off, what IS adultery?  Is it kissing someone not your spouse?  Surely there are some boundaries here.  I want to know.   Does the definition of adultery  follow along the lines of rape?  Must there be penetration?  How about.

t inanimate objects?  Sex toys?

Why does MY state even want to go here?  How many anti-abortion bills are there?  There is another bedroom invasion.

Prince William County won’t even perform marriages now.  I would certainly hope they wouldn’t ever try to enforce the infidelity misdemeanor law.    If they won’t tie the knot, they have no business enforcing the knot.

I am feeling like there needs to be a challenge to this stupid, stupid, archaic law.  Don’t keep laws that you can’t enforce.

17 Thoughts to “Adultery still against the law in the Old Dominion”

  1. ed myers

    Using laws that generally can’t be enforced as leverage is an abuse of power (or creative depending on what side you are on.) My favorite example is the Fairfax guy who set fire to a building that was flying a flag. He was charged with desecrating the Flag. Although the Supreme Court had invalidated flag burning statutes the law was arguably still valid for this case because there was no speech involved. Eventually the flag burning charge was plea-bargained away.

    The damage to society of having lots of generally unenforceable laws is that we hold rule of law a little lower in esteem if valid laws are mixed in with bogus ones.

    1. I think those kinds of laws are often used as gotcha laws when someone wants to get you. If we are to believe statistics, 50% of men and almost as many women have committed adultery of some sort. So those that mean 50% of the men are criminals?

      I still am not sure what constitutes adultery, in the eyes of the law.

  2. Cargosquid

    Look! FLYING PIGS! And I think Hell just froze over (which explains the low temps….)

    I’m agreeing with Ed.

  3. punchak

    @ed myers
    Total agreement here!

  4. Scout

    I have the same feeling about so-called “hate crime” statutes. I have never understood why the law should distinguish between someone who beats up another guy, or vandalizes his home or church out of sheer cussedness and someone who does it because his black heart is full of bigoted nonsense. These things are crimes regardless of motivation. Treat them as such and throw the book at the perpetrators. The motivation doesn’t make it more of a crime.

    1. Maybe cussedness should be part of being a hate crime.

  5. Ed Myers

    I’ve warmed to hate speech laws over time. I think there is a difference between a drunk punching someone in the nose because they were in the way and someone searching out for someone with a orange shirt to hit. The first example doesn’t cause everyone to change behavior. The second case would affect society at large by causing people to stop wearing orange shirts for fear of being punched. That assault in the second case has a secondary effect of chilling speech of a whole community that is beyond the assault on one person.

  6. Ray Beverage

    Moon, in answer to your question of just what is adultery, by the VA Code:

    § 18.2-365. Adultery defined; penalty.
    Bills amending this Section
    Any person, being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any person not his or her spouse shall be guilty of adultery, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.

    Code 1950, §§18.1-187, 18.1-190; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.

    And then we have this little gem in the VA Code:

    § 20-94. Effect of cohabitation after knowledge of adultery, sodomy or buggery; lapse of five years.
    When the suit is for divorce for adultery, sodomy, or buggery, the divorce shall not be granted, if it appear that the parties voluntarily cohabited after the knowledge of the fact of adultery, sodomy or buggery, or that it occurred more than five years before the institution of the suit, or that it was committed by the procurement or connivance of the party alleging such act.

    So no divorce if, after you split up, either “party” takes up with the new love.

  7. Ed Myers

    So is adultery limited to sexual intercourse? That gives Bill a big loophole. What he did wasn’t grounds for divorce, then.

    1. Ed, that is a good question. What exactly is adultery?

  8. Ed Myers

    My definition of adultery is anything that would affect the integrity of the family. A man having intercourse with a women could have a child out of wedlock which would have a claim on marital property. A married woman could likewise encumber a family by bring a bastard child into the family who would require a share of the inheritance, so to speak. When birth control prevented unwanted pregnancies the sexual definition of adultery became antiquated and was amended to include any sexual activity that could transmit STDs.

    I prefer broadening the definition to include non-sexual abuse of the vows to love and cherish: gambling, excessive spending, domestic violence, drug abuse, etc. are all forms of adultery. But then I don’t think the state should be regulating the creation or dissolving of marriage. However I see attempts to continue to criminalize adultery by renaming it spousal abuse.

    1. hmmmm….so you would throw in non-sexual behaviors and distractions and categorize them as adultery?

      Is that a variation on the notion that there is simply no mistress as powerful as alcohol?

      I believe bastard is a term no longer used in society when referring to the behavior of parents rather than the children.

    2. I also question whether the state has the right to declare behavior criminal. If that is the case, then first off they need to define what constitutes adultery. After that, would everyone who engages in the definition guilty? Who gets to be the adultery police?

    3. Let’s ask Jimmy Carter. He knows for real.

  9. Scout

    Ray adds an interesting statutory reference. However, I think the import of the second statute is to codify the concept of “condonation”. In other words, if the spouse of an adulterer resumes marital relations with the violator even though he/she has knowledge of the adultery, the Virginia statute says that the adultery cannot be used as grounds for divorce. The concept is that there has been some kind of forgiveness.

  10. Ed Myers

    No fault divorce is the way to go both legally and personally. No one (government or friends) should be deciding which partner is at fault for a marital split (well except for offering sympathy to whichever one is in immediate company!). My comments were more a personal code used to set boundaries for myself.

    1. It’s difficult to remove the personal boundaries from the discussion for sure. I also think there is a human tendency to make our own parameters a little larger than our partners.

      Divorce is damn nasty. I think the real winners are the lawyers and the real losers are the children. The splitting couple are somewhere in between.

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