Are Old Laws Funny or Dangerous?

Massachusetts has some old, sometimes funny morality laws about cursing and other no-nos. But sometimes those laws play havoc with modern-day living. Is it time to clear the books?

Massachusetts is famous for its out-of-date laws. The Boston Globe cites a few, like a cursing ban at sporting events. But there are other laws, passed over 100 years ago, which could complicate present-day political and legal dilemmas.

But these old laws sometimes have a major effect on modern day issues. Representative Byron Rushing, D-South End, reminded the Globe that Governor Mitt Romney used a 1913 law about residency rules to prevent out-of-state gay couples from marrying in Massachusetts. That old law was scrubbed from the books in 2008, five years after it was cited by Romney.

The 19th-century anti-abortion laws are a particularly thorny issue, according to the Globe. They may be relics of a time past, but that didn't stop the Essex County District Attorney's office from charging a woman using an 1845 statute in a 2007 case.

What do you think? Does the state need to clear out all these antiquated laws from the books, or is this a low priority for the legislature this year? Do the laws add quirk and humor to the commonwealth, or are they an embarrassing reminder of a less tolerant time? Tell us in the comments below.

Kathy Custer January 06, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Patch ate my first comment :( Old laws are hilarious until they're used against you.
David Marsters January 06, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Dave, This was a city ordinance not state law, about spitting on sidewalk. What about city ordinance, if your grass is more than 6 inches high you, you would be fined or if city cut it you would be charged by the city. This was for people with allergies. I wonder if this pertained to marijuana growing in your yard?????????
Margery Bagley Welch January 07, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Yes Reverend, Arlington banned leaf blowers - I think last summer. Because they were too loud. Stupid if you ask me.
Margery Bagley Welch January 07, 2013 at 05:34 PM
I heard there was a law that if your horse was spooked by a "horseless carriage", then the horse rider could order the carriage rider to dismantle and bury the carriage. Is that true? If yes, that would be a crazy one if still in effect.
Roger Lincoln January 10, 2013 at 05:59 PM
From http://blog.chron.com/hoofbeats/2008/03/more-strange-horse-laws "Pennsylvania law states: “Any motorist who sights a team of horses coming toward him must pull well off the road, cover his car with a blanket or canvas that blends with the countryside, and let the horses pass. If the horses appear skittish, the motorist must take his car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes.”


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