Sodomy Law: Plymouth, June 6, 1671

death for sodomy

The General Court of Plymouth added several capital crimes to those listed in 1636. The new law also qualified the "sodomy" statute, making persons under fourteen and the party to forcible sodomy exempt from death. The further qualification, that "all other sodomitical filthiness" shall be punished according to its nature, may have meant that anal penetration was necessary for the death penalty, and that other types of non-penetrative, "sodomitical" (sodomy-like) acts, such as mutual or public masturbation, were not to be punished so severely.(1)

The sixteen crimes punishable by death in the Plymouth law of 1671 were listed as: (1) "Idolatry," (2) "Blasphemy," (3) "Treason," (4) "Conspiring against this Juristiction" (attempted invasion, insurrection, or rebellion), (5) "Willful murder," (6) "Sudden Murder in Passion," (7) "Murder by Guile or Poisoning," (8) "Witchcraft," (9) "Bestiality," (10) "Sodomy," (11) "False-witness," (12) "Man-stealing," (13) "Cursing or Smiting Father or Mother," (14) "The Rebellious Son," (15) "Rape," (16) "Willful burning of Houses, Ships, etc."

The provision, whose margin referred to "sodomy” reads:

If any Man lyeth with Mankind, as he lyeth with a Woman, both of them have committed Abomination; they both shall surely be put to Death, unless the one party were forced, or be under fourteen years of Age: And all other Sodomitical filthiness, shall be surely punished according to the nature of it.

This Plymouth law was revised when Plymouth was united with Massachusetts in 1697.




  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 106-7, citing The Book of the General Laws of the Inhabitants of the Jurisdiction of New Plimouth, Collected Out of the Records of the General Court ... Held at Plimouth the Sixth of June Anno Dom. 1671 (Cambridge, Mass.: Samuel Green, 1672), pp. 3-5.