New York adulterers could get tossed out of house but not thrown in jail under newly passed bill

ALBANY, N.Y. — A little-known and rarely enforced 1907 law that makes adultery a crime in New York state could soon be a thing of the past after lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to repeal it.

The Senate approved the bill almost unanimously. It is now up to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who is in the middle of budget negotiations, to make the final decision. Her office said she would review the legislation. The state Assembly passed the measure last month.

Laws prohibiting adultery still exist in several states of the country, but are rarely enforced. New York’s law was initially implemented to reduce the divorce rate at a time when adultery was the only way to obtain a legal divorce.

Adultery, classified as a misdemeanor under the state Penal Code and punishable by up to three months behind bars, is defined in New York as when a person “engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse.”

The statute has been on the books for more than 100 years, but has rarely been used in recent decades. The last adultery charge in New York appears to have been filed in 2010 against a woman who was caught engaging in sex acts in a public park, but was later dropped as part of a settlement.

Adultery is still a crime in several other US states, usually as a misdemeanor, although Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan consider it a misdemeanor.


Maysoon Khan is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.