Colonial America: The Age of Sodomitical Sin

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Colonizing and Settling: 1607-1776

Curated by Jonathan Ned Katz

The years from 1607 to 1776 constitute the founding era of what became the United States. In the early years of this era, in these American colonies, the penalty for sodomy was death, and a number of executions are documented. Why was sodomy, usually conceived as anal intercourse between men, thought of as treason against the state, and punished so harshly? And what do we know of sexual and intimate relationships between women in these years, and laws and responses to such intimacies ?

This exhibit presents or references all the original documents that Katz collected in his books Gay/Lesbian Almanac and Gay American History. Evidence discovered since those publications will be added over time. If you have or know of such information, please add it as a new entry following the format in this section, or email[1]

Timeline: Age of Sodomitical Sin: 1607-1776


John Smith: Virginia, June 1607


Sodomy law: Virginia, May 24, 1610

Sodomy law: New Netherland, 1613


Sodomy case: Cornish executed, Virginia, c.1624-1625

Bradford: Merrymount; Massachusetts, 1626

Legal case: Thomas/sine Hall; Virginia, March 25, 1629

Legal case: boys; Massachusetts Bay, June 29, 1629


Buggery law: Maryland, 1632

Sodomy case: New Hampshire, February 14, 1635

Sodomy law proposed: Massachusetts Bay, October 1636

Sodomy law: Plymouth, November 15, 1636

Legal case: Allexander, Roberts; Plymouth, August 6, 1637


Thomas Shepard: heart sodomy, 1641

Sodomy law: Massachusetts Bay, November, 1641

Sodomy debate: Massachusetts Bay, 1641-1642

William Bradford: "sodomy" and "buggery," 1642

Legal case: Michell and Preston; Plymouth, March 1, 1642

Sodomy law: Connecticut, December 1, 1642

Legal case: Eliz. Johnson; Massachusetts Bay, Dec 5, 1642

Edward Coke: "Buggery, or Sodomy," 1644

Legal case: Plaine executed; New Haven, 1646

Sodomy case: Creoli executed; New Netherland, June 25, 1646

Sodomy law: Rhode Island, May 19, 1647

Sodomy law: Massachusetts Bay, 1648

Legal case: Norman, Hammon; Plymouth, March 6, 1649

Legal case: Berry, Joanes; Plymouth, October 29, 1649


Sodomy law: Connecticut, May, 1650

Michael Wigglesworth: February, 1653

Legal case: New Haven, March 23, 1653

Sodomy law: New Haven, March 1, 1656

Legal case: Hillebrant; New Netherland, August 26, 1658


Sodomy case: Jan Quisthout; New Netherland, May 13, 1660

Buggery law: Virginia, 1661

Buggery law: North and South Carolina, March, 1663

Sodomy law: Rhode Island, 1663

Buggery case: Mathew Giles; New Hampshire, July 4, 1663

Sodomy law: The Duke of York's Laws; March 1, 1665

Sodomy law: New Jersey, May 30, 1668


Sodomy law: Plymouth, June 6, 1671

Sodomy law: Connecticut, October, 1672

Samuel Danforth: "The Cry of Sodom," 1674

The Duke of York's Laws: September 25, 1676

Sodomy case: Nicholas Sension; Connecticut, May 22, 1677


Sodomy law: New Hampshire, March 16, 1680

Buggery law: West New Jersey, 1681

Sodomy law: Pennsylvania, December 7, 1682

Sodomy law: East New Jersey, March 1683


Buggery law: New York, 1691

Sodomy law: Pennsylvania, June 1693

Buggery law: Massachusetts, May 26, 1697


Sodomy law: Pennsylvania, November 27, 1700

Cotton Mather: June, 1701

Buggery law: New Jersey, 1702

Sodomy and buggery law: Pennsylvania, January 12, 1706

Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury (1661-1723)

John Lawson: 1709


Buggery law: South Carolina, 1712

Buggery case: Mingo; Massachusetts, January 29, 1712

Buggery law: New Hampshire, 1718

Legal case: Clark v. Winn; North Carolina, March 1718

Sodomy law: Pennsylvania, May 31, 1718

Sodomy law: Delaware, 1719


Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution: 1724


Buggery law: Georgia, June 29, 1732

Sodomy case: Georgia, March 25, 1734

Bibliography: Colonial America, The Age of Sodomitical Sin


  1. Acknowledgments in Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983) say: "This section on the early colonial period [in American history] might not have been undertaken without the hours of expert research volunteered by Robert Oaks, to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude. Jaime Vidal also volunteered many hours of research on early colonial documents, for which I thank him."

See also: Larry Kramer: "Homo Sex in Colonial America," May 19, 2009

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