Sodomy Law: Pennsylvania, November 27, 1700

Life for white people, death for Black people

The Pennsylvania assembly passed a new sodomy law to replace the statute abrogated in 1693.(1)

Life for "buggery" for whites

Under the new Pennsylvania statute (as in the earlier Pennsylvania law of 1682), sodomy was not capital (when committed by whites. The law of 1682 had not distinguished between Blacks and whites.) The new law called for life imprisonment for a first offense and, at the discretion of the magistrates, a whipping once every three months during the first year. If the guilty man was married the punishment was castration, and his wife was granted a divorce. If a woman was guilty of bestiality her husband was granted a divorce.

Death for "buggery" for Blacks

A separate act, passed the same day, dealt with "negros." The new act imposed the death penalty on Blacks guilty of "buggery," burglary, the rape of a white woman, and murder. Though the text is ambiguous, "buggery" here probably meant both "sodomy" and "bestiality."

The Pennsylvania sodomy and bestiality provision read:

whoever shall be legally convicted of sodomy or bestiality, shall suffer imprisonment during life, and be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates, once every three months during the first year after conviction. And if he be a married man, he shall also suffer castration, and the injured wife shall have a divorce if required. And if a married woman be legally convicted of bestiality her husband may have a divorce if requested.

"An Act for the Trial of Negroes" read:

if any negro or negroes within this government 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....

These laws were next revised in 1706.




  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 122-23, citing Mitchell and Flanders, vol. 2, pp. 8, 79; Barnes, Evolution, p. 36, says that though this law of 1700 was repealed by the English Crown it was reenacted on Jan. 12, 1706 (citing Mitchell and Flanders, vol. 2, pp. 171ff.).