By Timothy Horrigan; December 13, 2009, revised January 11, 2010, April 12, 2010
[April 27, 2010] The Senate Judiciary committee had an "executive session" on HB1402 on Wednesday afternoon, April 21. 2010. I was otherwise engaged, since the House was in session at the time. For whatever reason, the committee voted 5-0 to kill the bill. The Senate is unlikely to overturn the bill on April 28. Only one member of the public showed up: one of several "mad Dads" who frequently show up at hearings about anything related to family law issues. He basically was upset because the existing law failed to keep his now-ex-wife from having an affair. I did send an email to my friends in the Senate (and they are all my friends, even Jeb Bradley):
[April 13, 2010] HB1402 will be heard by the NH Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.. This is the afternoon after what should be a short morning session. The location will be the State House, Room 103 (unless an overflow crowd shows up, in which case a larger room might be found.) The public can— and probably will— speak at this hearing, even though the bill passed the House by a voice vote. Click below for:
[January 11, 2010] HB1402's first hearing is before the NH House Criminal Justice Committee: it is scheduled for Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 10:00 a.m., at the Legislative Office Building in downtown Concord. The public can— and probably will— speak at this hearing. Click below for:
I was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2008. In my first session, 2009, I introduced just one bill, HB 105, "AN ACT relative to voting machines for the counting of ballots." It passed easily after being amended.
During the runup to 2010, I got more ambitious. One of the bills I sponsored was HB 1402: "AN ACT repealing the crime of adultery." Well, actually I cosponsored it: the prime sponsor was Rep. Carol McGuire from Epsom, who is a stalwart of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance. The bill was motivated partially by a desire to get the government out of citizens' private lives, and also by the desire to get rid of archaic laws which are never enforced. Rep. McGuire thought up the bill long before Tiger Woods wrecked his car in the middle of the night. It was also before South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's wife filed for divorce, although he had already hiked down the Appalachian Trail (which runs across New Hampshire) to Argentina.
A local development which complicates this bill is the emergence of a right-wing antisex activist named Karen Testerman as the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate. She has stated in the past that gays and lesbians were equivalent to "shoplifters and drug addicts" and that young people shouldn't even hold hands. She famously said at a 2004 meeting, "Holding hands is the first step: you're not even supposed to do that if you can avoid it." Testerman is strongly "pro family" and is opposed to all forms of extramarital sex. (She has not yet paraded her own family before the cameras: however, she is known to have a male spouse and at least one adult child.)
Laws related to sexual relationships usually go to the Judiciary or Children & Family Law committees. This one is going to the Criminal Justice & Family Safety committee. This is probably going to speed up the bill's progress through the House: this is a conservative committee, but also a very businesslike one. The other two committees are much more drama-prone.
There has been some pushback against this bill, but (of course) I am confident it will pass. One complication is that no one is sure what actually constitutes adultery: a 2003 state Supreme Court decision claimed that only heterosexual coitus can be adultery, which is not a widely-held definition of adultery,
This bill is not my #1 legislative priority: my first order of business to make sure the marriage equality bills we passed in 2009 don't get overturned.
The bill is very short:
HB 1402 – AS INTRODUCED
HOUSE BILL 1402
This bill repeals the crime of adultery.
Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.
removed from current law appears [
Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Ten
AN ACT repealing the crime of adultery.
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:
1 Repeal. RSA 645:3, relative to the crime of adultery, is repealed.
2 Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 2011.
It repeals RSA 645:3, which is about 3 lines long One possible complication is that adultery turns up in several other statutes, e.g., the divorce laws.— and this bill removes the statute which officially defines "adultery." My position is that adultery is still adequately defined even if this bill passes unamended. The common definition of "adultery" is basically: it's adultery when a married person has consensual (and otherwise legal) sex with someone other than his or her spouse. If it is rape, sexual assault, public indecency, prostitution, human trafficking, etc., it's not adultery. This statute, however, gives a somewhat more inclusive definition.
A person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if, being a married person, he engages in sexual intercourse with another not his spouse or, being unmarried, engages in sexual intercourse with another known by him to be married.
Source. 1971, 518:1. 1992, 269:19, eff. July 1, 1992.