House Votes to Repeal Adultery, “Sexual Immorality” Statutes

February 28, 2013

Proponents said the law was antiquated, while opponents argued it is an important tool for prosecutors

DENVER– The House approved a bill that would strip adultery and “promoting sexual immorality” provisions from state statutes. But, Republican lawmakers argued the measure would impede law enforcement from arresting pimps, panderers and perpetrators of human trafficking.

“We’re just keeping the police out of our bedrooms,” declared state Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Greenwood Village), a sponsor with state Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) of House Bill 1166.

“Pimping, pandering – they’ll still be (on the books), and we’re not effecting in any negative way the effort to curb prostitution and human trafficking,” said Kagan of striking the sexual immorality law.

Proponents of the bill claim the state statutes are archaic. They’ve been on the books since the late 1800s, and some claim they were enacted to control houses of ill repute.

No one can remember when the law against adultery was used against a spouse. However, the law that prohibits promoting sexual morality is currently cited in arrests and court cases related to pimps and panderers.

The first part of the bill would eliminate a law that bans adultery, but the second part would repeal a law against “promoting sexual immorality” that is currently used against pimps and panderers – perpetrators of human trafficking, explained State Rep. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs).

“You can trivialize this all you want to, but the fact of the matter is that it’s been used by prosecutors in Colorado over the past five years,” declared Gardner. “It’s there. It matters.”

Gardnercited 11 charges of “promoting sexual immorality” that led to convictions in Arapahoe, Boulder, Mesa and Weld counties as recently as last year. The documentation was provided by the Planning and Analysis Division of the Colorado Courts.

“It’s very clear to me on the facts that human trafficking was involved,” said Gardner of the charges which were all related to cases of pimping, pandering and promoting prostitution.

“Of all the statutes on the books, the district attorneys in those counties used this law,” said Gardner. “If they used this charge, they believe it is an appropriate tool.”

State Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver) argued that the “promoting sexual immorality” might have been used in a couple of cases cited by Gardner, but “it is not used for human trafficking kinds of cases.”

Gardner rose to McCann’s assertion and read the details of 11 cases over the past few years, even citing the case numbers, charges, plea bargains and sentences.

“You cannot credibly say that it is not a charge used in human trafficking,” insisted Gardner.

State Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Littleton) stated her opposition to HB 1166, and recalled the contradictory message of passing a resolution against human trafficking in the House last week and a couple of hours later seeing Democrats move this bill through the Judiciary Committee.

Lawrence implored legislators to ask themselves if it is “appropriate that we now would remove that tool that law enforcement has to prosecute people who are abusing young women across this country?”

Kagan, who flipped through a law book reading a couple of statute definitions of pandering and pimping, said that his  bill would not “do anything that impedes our ability to police the prostitution and trafficking going on.”

“When this came up in committee, those charged with law enforcement, those tasked with prosecuting pimps, panderers and traffickers took no position on this bill,” declared Kagan. “They did not come in and say that they oppose this bill.”

If law enforcement officers and prosecutors have been using charges of “promoting sexual immorality” against panderers and pimps, Kagan said, “Well perhaps that’s not the best way of going about it.”

The House passed the bill, 37 - 26, on a party line vote with the exception of Republican state Rep. Don Coram who cast an “aye” vote with the Democrats. The bill now moves to the Senate.

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