Utah lawmakers repeal decades-old law criminalizing sex outside of marriage

The governor of Utah signed a bill this week repealing a 1973 law that criminalized sex outside marriage.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill Wednesday. It repealed a decades-old rule stating that “any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication.”

The offense, which was not enforced by police, was classified as a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine.

Republican lawmaker Rep. Keven Stratton criticized the repeal, saying that “what is legally is often far below what is morally right,” Fox 13 reported. “I recognize our laws are not strong enough to rule an immoral people.”

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill Wednesday. It repealed a decades-old rule stating that “any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication.” (Francisco Kjholseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill Wednesday. It repealed a decades-old rule stating that “any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication.” (Francisco Kjholseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

Most Utah lawmakers are Mormons; their faith stands opposed to sexual relations outside marriage. Still, the repeal passed 41-32 in the House after passing in the state Senate earlier this month.

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This bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, was not the first of its kind.

The state has made attempts in the past to repeal laws which were classified as “offenses against the family.” On Monday, Herbert signed another bill, which decriminalized adultery among consenting adults.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.