"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth
with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be
put to death."
Centuries ago, this verse was "adopted into legislation and enforced by the colonies
of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and
In his concurring decision in the Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) case, Supreme
Court Justice Burgher wrote:
"...the proscriptions against sodomy have very
'ancient roots.' Decisions of individuals relating to homosexual conduct have
been subject to state intervention throughout the history of Western
civilization. Condemnation of those practices is firmly rooted in Judeao-Christian
moral and ethical standards. Homosexual sodomy was a capital crime under Roman
law....During the English Reformation when powers of the ecclesiastical courts
were transferred to the King's Courts, the first English statute criminalizing
sodomy was passed. Blackstone described 'the infamous crime against nature' as
an offense of 'deeper malignity' than rape, a heinous act 'the very mention of
which is a disgrace to human nature,' and 'a crime not fit to be named." ...To
hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental
right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching."
Some major events in Britain and the U.S., starting the mid-16th Century::
Prior to 1533 CE: Anal sex in Britain was
considered a religious infraction and was punished within ecclesiastical courts. It was not considered to be a
civil offense against the state.
1533: A British "Buggery Statute" was enacted. It
defined sodomy as sexual activity between two men or as bestiality
involving an animal witheither a man or woman.
1624: In the colony of Virginia, Captain Richard Cornish was
charged under the British Buggery Statute with having raped his male servant.
He was found guilty. Both the perpetrator and the victim were hanged.
1628: The British jurist Sir Edward Coke described same-sex
behavior as "against the ordinance of the Creator and order of nature."
He suggested that the usual execution techniques of burning alive or
burying alive be replaced by simple hanging.
1629: "Five beastly Sodomiticall boys"
confessed to homosexual activity. They were probably hanged,
because Massachusetts law called for the death penalty for persons over
14 years of age who committed sodomy.
1631: In the first reported trial for homosexual sex in
England, the Earl of Castlehaven was convicted of sodomy with his male
servants. Because of his rank, he was beheaded.
1641: Sodomy became a capital crime in Massachusetts, but only
1642: Connecticut included sodomy among its 12 capital crimes.
1646: Jan Creoli was executed in New Netherland (present-day
New York state) for sodomizing a ten-year old boy. His victim was "only" flogged.
1647: Rhode Island followed the lead of Massachusetts.
1656: New Haven passes a law making sodomy punishable by execution
for both men and women.
1660: Jan Quisthout vander Linde was executed for sodomy. His victim,
a boy, was whipped.
1662: Rhode Island passed a sodomy law.
1682: Pennsylvania, a Quaker colony, became the first jurisdiction in
America to make sodomy a non-capital offence. Punishment was in the form of
whipping, a fine equal to 1/3 of the offender's estate, and six months of hard
1700: Pennsylvania amended its sodomy punishment to life imprisonment
1712: South Carolina adopted the British buggery law.
1718: The sodomy law in Pennsylvania was revised to make it a capital
1718: New Hampshire passed its first sodomy law.
1719: Delaware passed a sodomy law.
1776: Maryland adopted English common law, which included the
criminalization of sodomy.
1784: Georgia also adopted English common law.
1785: Massachusetts passed a sodomy law.
1787: New York passed a sodomy law.
1790: Pennsylvania and South Carolina each passed a sodomy law.
1791: The original 13 states ratified the Bill
of Rights. By that time, they all treated sodomy as a criminal offense. Connecticut,
Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, South Carolina had
specific sodomy laws in place. Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, and
adopted either the common law of England or specific English statues; both
criminalized sodomy. "Sodomy was a crime at common law in New Jersey at
the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The State enacted its
first criminal sodomy law five years later." ,4
In the years following independence from Britain,
the death penalty was gradually removed from the former colonial laws. However, sexual
behavior between persons of the same gender remained a criminal act throughout
the U.S. until the 1960s.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. It guaranteed equal
treatment for all persons under the law. In spite of that clause, at the time all but 5 of the 37 States in the Union had criminal sodomy
laws. Subsequently, all of the states eventually outlawed sodomy.