Repeal of adultery ban passes House

Vic Vela
Posted

It was quite a way to start off a bill debate in the state House of Representatives.

“Members, who did you sleep with last night?” Rep. Daniel Kagan said on Feb. 26, to laughter from lawmakers.

The Cherry Hills Village Democrat was making a point that it’s no one’s business who a person sleeps with, as he was arguing in favor of a bill that repeals a state law against adultery, and one that makes it a crime to promote “sexual immorality.”

House Bill 1166, which is being co-sponsored by Kagan, ended up passing the House the next day, in spite of Republican lawmakers raising concern that part of the bill could end up adversely affecting law enforcement’s abilities to deal with crimes such as prostitution.

The adultery law has been on the books since the 1900s, but there is no penalty associated with cheating on one’s spouse.

But the other longstanding Colorado law that Kagan’s bill seeks to repeal carries with it a misdemeanor penalty. An example of “promoting sexual immorality,” would be when a hotel worker or a landlord rents accommodations to an unmarried couple, knowing that they’re going to have sex there.

Kagan said during a Feb. 21 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee that the sexual immorality law has been prosecuted 11 times in the last five years.

“There are only two statutes in Colorado law where a person’s guilt depends on the marital status — whether you’re married or single — where it depends on whether a crime has occurred,” Kagan said during that committee hearing.

All seven Democrats on the committee voted for the bill. Only one Republican, Rep. Carole Murray of Castle Rock, voted it out of committee. However, Murray ultimately ended up voting against the bill.

During the hearing, Republican Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs blasted Kagan for using the committee’s time to hear a bill that he said doesn’t do a whole lot.

“Why are we spending time on this?” Gardner said during the hearing. “It has more interest (from the press) than some things today that are far more important to the people of Colorado. Why bother?”

Gardner also used the Feb. 26 House debate to argue against the bill, saying that he doesn’t believe police are going door-to-door, asking about who a person is sleeping with.

“Apparently, it only happens in the well of the House,” Gardner said.

Gardner was among a handful of Republicans who also raised concern during the bill’s final passage on Feb. 27 that, by removing the sexual immorality law from the books, police and prosecutors would have one less tool to use in fighting human trafficking cases, such as prostitution.

Gardner read aloud several cases where the law had been used in conjunction with human trafficking cases, telling lawmakers, “The fact that it’s been used at all tells me that it’s not a trivial law.”

Republicans also reminded fellow House members that the House recently passed a resolution creating Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Kagan said removing the sexual immorality law from statute does not affect other crimes that are more directly targeted at human trafficking cases, such as pimping and pandering.

Kagan also said that district attorneys in the state have been silent on this issue.

The bill passed the House on a 37-26 vote. With Rep. Jenise May of Aurora absent, the remaining 36 Democrats voted for the bill. Rep. Don Coram of Montrose was the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill. Republican Rep. Timothy Dore of Elizabeth was absent.

The bill now heads to the Senate.