Sodomy and Buggery Law: Pennsylvania, January 12, 1706

Hard labor for life for sodomy and buggery

The Pennsylvania assembly passed a new sodomy and buggery law that removed the castration penalty for the crime, imposed in 1700.(1) Anyone above an undefined "age of discretion" who consented to either sodomy or buggery was to be imprisoned at hard labor for life. During the first year, at the magistrates' discretion, the guilty party was to be whipped every three months (not exceeding thirty-nine lashes per whipping).

Distinction was no longer made (as in the Pennsylvania law of 1700) between married and unmarried men guilty of sodomy or buggery.

For bestiality men and women suffered the same punishment, and their spouses were granted a divorce disallowing remarriage.

A provision of the new law referring to "negroes" maintained the earlier death penalty for "buggery" (apparently, sodomy and bestiality).

The Pennsylvania "Act Against Sodomy and Buggery" read:

... if any person or persons shall be convicted of sodomy and buggery, provided he or they be at the age of discretion, and consenting thereunto [he or they] shall suffer imprisonment at hard labor during life, and shall be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates (not exceeding thirty-nine lashes at one time) every three months during the first year after conviction.

The provision referring to "negroes" read:

if any negro or negroes within this province shall commit a rape or ravishment upon any white woman or maid, or shall commit murder, buggery or burglary, they shall be ... punished by death....

This law was next revised on May 31, 1718.



  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 125, citing Mitchell and Flanders, vol. 2. pp. 184, 235.