Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


June 30, 2022

Senate Passes Legislation Repealing Archaic Laws

Bill would remove anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and establish a permanent
commission to recommend outdated legislation for repeal

BOSTON-Today, the Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill that would repeal archaic laws that intrude on an individual’s privacy regarding sexual activity. An Act relative to archaic laws was developed by Senator Will Brownsberger and Senators Harriette Chandler, Julian Cyr, Cindy Creem, and Jamie Eldridge, and Representative Jay Livingstone.

The bill would remove existing statutes that criminalize sodomy and so-called ‘unnatural’ acts between consenting adults. The passage of this bill comes on the last day of Pride Month and follows the concurring opinion of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the Dobbs v. Jackson decision in which Justice Thomas suggested that the Court could revisit case law banning the criminal prosecution of sodomy. In addition, the bill would continue the process of modernizing the Commonwealth’s laws by establishing a permanent law revision commission with the power to recommend laws for repeal to the legislature.

“The Senate took a decisive vote today to remove archaic laws that are harmful to our residents,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Senator Brownsberger has done tremendous, time-consuming work to ensure that our laws reflect the values of Massachusetts as we live them today. The Senate will always stand with our LGBTQIA+ neighbors, and I thank Senator Brownsberger and my colleagues in the Senate for ensuring that we have a mechanism for removing laws that are no longer acceptable or relevant.”

“Today my Senate colleagues and I took a stand to repeal outdated and archaic laws that have no place in our Commonwealth,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem), Chair of the Senate Rules Committee. “Relationships between consenting adults are some of the most private and intimate parts of our lives, and government does not and should not be able to criminalize those relationships. We must continue to protect our LGBTQIA+ residents and ensure that their liberties and freedoms are safe and secure. Thank you, Senate President Spilka, Senator Brownsberger, and Senator Cyr, for your leadership and for helping maintain the Commonwealth’s status as a safe, welcoming state for our LGBTQIA+ communities.”

“In my America, there is a personal space the government has no business in. These laws intrude into people’s personal space and they shouldn’t be on the books. The Supreme Court, for a while, has agreed with that. But lately, we are not sure where they are going,” said Senator Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont). “The repeal is long overdue but especially timely given last week’s Supreme Court decision. I appreciate the collaboration on this effort.”

“I am happy that the Senate has passed this legislation and believe it is very timely and necessary in light of recent national news,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “We should not keep laws on our books that are outdated or in some cases unconstitutional.  They serve no true public safety purpose and by repealing or amending them we remove not only the stigma of unlawfulness on otherwise consensual activities, but also the threat of their selective enforcement.”

“As the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Judiciary, I was proud to report out favorably An Act relative to archaic laws,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Action). “At a time when conservative Supreme Court Justices are invoking discriminatory eighteenth-century laws, we want to make sure there are no laws in Massachusetts that invoke hateful treatment of the LBGTQ community or Puritan attitudes towards sex. I’m also grateful that this legislation will repeal the common night walking statute, which has led to the mistreatment of many trans residents.”

“It is undeniable that when it comes to human rights, we cannot rest on our assumptions at this moment in history,” said Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “First and foremost, the government has no business in people’s sex lives. Furthermore, in a Commonwealth that prides itself on our social progressiveness, inclusivity, and equality, our laws must reflect these vital ideals. By removing harmful, homophobic, and transphobic language from our statutes we are taking a well overdue step to ensure the letter of the law promotes equity and justice for the most vulnerable members of our population.”

“I am glad to work with Senator Brownsberger to amend and eliminate centuries-old statutes that criminalize marginalized people,” said Senator Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation borrows elements of a bill I filed to eliminate prohibitions on common night walking—a prohibition used to arrest and prosecute survivors of sex trafficking. This is a step to help survivors access critical resources that they need to thrive.”

The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives where it awaits further action.