Friday, November 15, 2013

Illegal Adulter-ito

In this great “modern” world that we live in, some of our practices and laws are downright archaic. Take something as simple as adultery, the act of engaging in intercourse with a person that is not your legal spouse. Sounds bad, right? It’s nothing now. Adultery has surely been happening since before the concept of marriage. But try it in a marriage and shit hits the courtroom.

Outside of marriage, changing partners when you’re in a committed relationship is still considered cheating. But within marriage, a legally binding contract between two persons, cheating can be punishable in court. A slight majority of states consider adultery to be a civil matter, meaning it’s a problem between the adulterer and the injured spouse. The injured spouse can sue for damages such as emotional and financial distress, and loss of companionship. Adultery is an offense that is grounds for divorce and can affect divorce and child-custody proceedings.

However, in the slight minority of states where adultery is a criminal offense, things can get ugly. Making adultery into a criminal matter takes it from a solvable conflict between two parties to a punishable offense against humanity. Each state’s laws treat the offense differently. The punishment can range from a slight fine to life imprisonment, as a Michigan appellate court interpreted from that state’s adultery laws in 2007.

Yes, that’s right, a life sentence for cheating. I can understand suing, fines, and community service. But life imprisonment?! This simply goes too far. Too many of our laws date back to the founding of this country and the early settlers when things were seemingly different. In this case, I’ll name the Puritans as the scapegoat. The Puritans left England because they disagreed with how the religious state was run. Upon reaching America, the Puritans founded their communities by their religion and beliefs in living a simple life devoted to the “one true God.” This inclusion of church and state’s structure and rigidity in community and faith have influenced many of the morality laws and faith bases of this country today.

While the influences of the Puritans helped to build a fledgling nation into the power it is now, there comes a time when we as a country realize that we aren't Puritans anymore. We are no longer fleeing an oppressive rule. Instead, we are a nation of many: many people, many beliefs. It’s time that we accept that morality laws are not one-size-fits-all. It’s about time “when our nation can finally move beyond laws that require citizens to comply with the moral dictates of their neighbors.”

As always, there are people who want to make the laws stronger in respect to adultery and other issues related to marriage and sex, like the Minnesota Family Council who want to strengthen the state’s laws criminalizing a married woman’s adultery and a single woman’s consensual sex. We must not allow this religious persecution through the legal system. We can no longer flee that with which we disagree. We must stand up and fight against oppression. Marriage is at base a civil matter and therefore any issues between the two persons should be handled in a civil court. By criminalizing marital issues under morality codes, we are allowing the government to favor religious beliefs over secular justice, a clear violation of the First Amendment. Therefore, and laws making adultery, and non-marital sex, a criminal offense are unconstitutional and should be abolished.

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