Under the previous law, which was passed in 1973, sex outside of marriage was considered a class B misdemeanor. It was punishable by up to six months in jail or a maximum fine of $1,000.
“Any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication,” the former legislation read.
However, the fornication law was essentially unenforceable following a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which declared that state governments can’t tell adults what they can or cannot do in the bedroom.
That same sentiment led to the passing of Senate Bill 43, which was sponsored by state Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne. “You hear all over the U.S. how you have antiquated laws about horses in the streets and all kinds of things, so we wanted to make them modern-day, in the now,” Mayne said to NPR.
But in Utah, where there’s a large population of Mormons who don’t believe in sex outside of marriage, not everyone is in support of the new law. Republican representative Keven Stratton told Fox 13, “What is legally [right] is often far below what is morally right. And I recognize our laws are not strong enough to rule an immoral people.”
Earlier in the week, on Monday, Governor Herbert also signed into law a bill that legalizes adultery and sodomy between consenting adults. Both acts were also previously classified as misdemeanors.