A crackdown on lovers in New York: The legislation that outlawed flirting

This law which exists till date prohibited men turning around on a street and “looking at a woman in that way”.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, January 07, 2023, 03:37 PM IST
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Mulberry Street, Lower East Side in the 1900s. | File

The New York city in the United States is known as one of the free, fun capitals of the world where almost anything goes. This is also because the city authorities ignore  a number of restrictive laws that are still on the Statute Book. For instance, on this day in 1902, the New York State Legislature outlawed flirting in public.

This law which exists till date prohibited men turning around on a street and “looking at a woman in that way”. The fine for doing that is $25. In bizarre specifics of the law, those that went on to commit a second flirting offence would be ordered to wear a pair of horse blinders whenever they stepped out on the streets.

Of course, one thing leads to another, as the puritan authorities must have been aware. Because in New York adultery is a crime. Section 255.17 of the state penal law introduced on September 1st, 1907, states: “A person is guilty of adultery when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse.” Adultery is a class B misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine.

Adultery is not a crime in the United States. However, some states have laws that allow one spouse to sue the other for causing a divorce. These are called "alienation of affection" or "criminal conversation" lawsuits. In these cases, the spouse who committed adultery may be ordered to pay damages to the other spouse.

It is worth noting that most states have done away with these types of laws, and they are not commonly used. Additionally, these types of lawsuits are generally not successful, as they require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant's actions were the direct cause of the breakdown of the marriage. This can be difficult to do, as there are often many other factors that contribute to the end of a marriage

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