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Should the U.S. Decriminalize Public Sex?

by Countable | 8.24.18

What’s the story?

  • Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, has passed a measure to decriminalize sexual activities in public places so police can focus on more serious crimes.
  • The government of Guadalajara said in a statement that individuals having consensual acts of a sexual nature in public places – such as in cars or parks – would only be prosecuted if there is a complaint.
  • Guadalupe Morfín Otero, who proposed the Guadalajara measure, told Mexican media that the decriminalization would deter police from attempting to extort couples caught engaging in public sex while also allowing law enforcement officers to focus on crimes related to drugs and violence.

What are public sex laws in America?

  • In most U.S. states, the commission of a public “lewd act” is a misdemeanor—which usually carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine.
  • Some states also explicitly criminalize al fresco sexual activity, including prohibitions on sex in public bathrooms, cars, and on a person’s property if the person is visible to the public.
  • However, a New York court ruled that fornicating in a Ford is not sex in public unless the act can be readily seen by passers-by. Other states have similar laws.
  • Thinking about engaging in some outdoor shenanigans this weekend? Check your state's public decency laws here.

What do you think?

Is it time for American cities to revisit their laws on public sex? What about laws against “adultery,” which is a misdemeanor in 20 states? Would decriminalizing public sex allow police to focus on more serious crimes? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman


(Screen Capture from Titanic)

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