Sodomy Law: Rhode Island, 1663

death for "sodomy" or "buggery"

The Rhode Island Colony revised its sodomy law of 1647. The new statute dropped the earlier law's New Testament citations, adopting a wording more like that of the English buggery law.(1)

The law of 1663 read:

... whosoever shall perpetuate and commit the Detestable and Abominable Crimes of Sodomy, or Buggery, and be thereof Lawfully Convicted, shall suffer the Pains of Death, as in Cases of Felony, with benefit of Clergy.

This Rhode Island law was next revised in 1798 when the death penalty for sodomy was abolished.




  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 105, citing Acts and Laws of His Majesties Colony of Rhode Island. . . (Boston: Nicholas Boone, 1719), p. 6. This law, as first published in 1719, provided that those convicted of sodomy be punished by death "with benefit of Clergy." This was probably a printer's error for "without" benefit of clergy -- an error which might theoretically have removed the mandatory death penalty for sodomy. "Benefit of Clergy" provided an exemption of the death penalty for the clergy and some others.