Cheating On Your Spouse is a Crime in New York, But Now The Century-Old Law May Be Repealed


A bill aiming to repeal New York’s longstanding adultery law is gaining momentum in the state legislature, potentially bringing an end to a statute that has been on the books since 1907.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Lavine, seeks to remove the rarely enforced law that criminalizes cheating on one’s spouse, punishable by up to three months in jail.

Assemblyman Lavine emphasized the outdated nature of the law, highlighting its lack of enforcement and the evolving societal attitudes towards intimate relationships.

“It just makes no sense whatsoever,” Lavine stated, criticizing the law as an archaic expression of moral outrage.

The proposed repeal comes amid a broader national trend of reconsidering adultery laws. Several states have moved to repeal similar statutes, arguing that such laws are relics of a bygone era and infringe upon personal liberties.

New York’s bill has already passed the Assembly and is anticipated to clear the Senate before heading to the governor’s desk for approval.

Adultery laws have faced scrutiny for their historical roots in patriarchal norms, often disproportionately targeting women.

Katharine B. Silbaugh, a law professor at Boston University, noted that these bans were initially intended to discourage extramarital affairs that could raise questions about a child’s parentage.

Despite the historical context, questions remain about the constitutionality of adultery laws. While a 2003 Supreme Court decision struck down sodomy laws, Justice Clarence Thomas’s recent remarks suggest a potential reevaluation of past rulings, including those on adultery. However, legal experts note that the practical impact of such laws is minimal, given the rarity of charges and convictions.

If New York successfully repeals its adultery law, it would join a growing number of states that have taken steps to abolish outdated and seldom-enforced statutes, reflecting changing societal norms and values.

The bill’s passage would signal New York’s departure from antiquated moral codes towards a more modern understanding of personal autonomy and privacy.