Sex, alcohol, gambling and religion are the subjects of stupid laws still on the books in many states, though not the only subjects of laws the common person shakes his head at in amazement.
In Vermont, clotheslines are banned. Mississippi passed an “Anti-Bloomberg bill” forbidding communities from regulating nutritional labeling. In Tennessee you cannot shoot any game out of a moving vehicle, unless of course, it is a whale; yes, I said in Tennessee.
Most of the stupid laws are simply outdated and virtually ignored by law enforcement. Who, for instance, wants to enforce the Arkansas laws that make it illegal to mispronounce that state’s name or arrest a man not because he beat his wife but because he did so more than once a month?
Sex has led to some bizarre laws in the past. Some states limit the number of women who may reside in a residence. In Ohio, the limit is five, while Tennessee allows up to eight; any more, it seems, promotes brothels.
South Carolina prohibits any male older than age 16 from seducing a woman with the false promise of matrimony. Imagine the naïveté of South Carolinian women if they actually require such protection.
A number of states make sex among unmarried couples a misdemeanor, but not Michigan, where such an act warrants a felony.
Alcohol has led to many a strange law. In Alaska, a person cannot get drunk in a bar and remain on the premises. Seems drunken driving is preferable in the last frontier.
Texas bans the Encyclopedia Britannica because it includes a formula for beer-making.
Indiana legislators have been especially particular about alcohol regulations. It is illegal here for a waitress to bring a drink into a bar or restaurant; our liquor stores may sell water or soft drinks as long as they are not cooled. It is impermissible to carry a cocktail from the bar to your table in our fair state.
And you don’t want to get me started on our silly gambling laws.
In French Lick, a tiny pond was built to ensure the casino did not violate Indiana law requiring casinos be built on a body of water, unless of course they are located on a race track, where it is still not legal to have table games operated by real people.
Maybe Hoosier lawmakers think it is easier for a person to cheat than to rig a machine.
Religion has been the focus of many a stupid law. Texas prohibits anyone from running for the state legislature without first acknowledging a “Supreme Being.”
Tennessee, on the other hand, bars ministers from running for the legislature because they are in “the service of God.”
Not all the stupid laws are old and unenforced. Some recent laws were merely poorly worded. Take for instance a recent Florida law.
A court ruling stated it was so poorly written it made computers and smartphones illegal within Internet cafés.
Another dumb Florida law of recent note has been repealed. That law made it illegal for a doctor to ask a patient if he owned a gun.
But folks, it’s Texas that takes the prize for dumbest new laws. Its legislative sages recently passed a bill requiring criminals to give their victims 24-hour notice and to explain the nature of the crime to be committed. Good intentions, I suppose, but does anyone really believe this law will reduce crime?
Another recently enacted dumb Texas law will go down in history as one of the most ironic as well. On the date marking the 50th anniversary of the massacre of 16 students and the wounding of 32 others on the campus of the University of Texas, it will become legal for students to carry concealed weapons on Texas public colleges.
This was enacted despite the protest of the university presidents and faculty, the campus police and a great majority of Texas students. As if there are not enough problems on campus with binge drinking and rapes, now we are going to allow concealed weapons at schools.
Since the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, 52 gun-carry-on-campus bills have been defeated in state legislatures, until now. Actually, that isn’t true. Arizona, with the most lenient gun laws in the nation, passed a similar bill only to be vetoed by its conservative governor, Jan Brewer. But Texas is infamous for its notorious laws, so they decided to be the exception.
Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.