In the future, I would appreciate it if legislatures that abolish (or pass!) stupid or outdated laws would collect all of those in a single bill, including the full text of each stupid or outdated provision. I realize that would be extra work for the legislatures but it would be a lot more convenient for me personally.
And it would make them look good, at least in the abolishment scenario. Granted, being mentioned by me does not always make one “look good,” but I have given credit to legislatures in this situation before—for example, when Minnesota stopped regulating telegraph operators (because there aren’t any) and Wyoming repealed laws protecting those who crank movie projectors by hand (same reason). Minnesota, in fact, ditched something like 1,100 unnecessary laws in that one session, which gives you some idea just how many laws are out there to begin with, and how many of them we probably don’t need.
Anyway, Michigan has found about 80 laws it could do without, according to the Detroit Free Press. Most of the reforms are included in House Bill 4248, but that’s just a list of repealed provisions so we must look to the bill summaries and/or the actual statutes to see what has been ditched. It is a pretty good list.
- Sections 750.34-.37 prohibited “immoral” advertising, which it defined in part as any ads for treating or curing venereal diseases, “the restoration of ‘lost manhood’ or ‘lost vitality or vigor,” or advertising in any manner that one is “a specialist in diseases of the sexual organs or diseases caused by sexual vice or masturbation,” I guess meaning blindness?
- It is also no longer a misdemeanor to use “indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar or insulting language in the presence or hearing of any woman or child,” now that Section 750.337 has been repealed.
- So has all of “Chapter LXXXIII: THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER,” which had a lot more problems than the missing hyphen. As you may or may not know, it has been illegal in Michigan since at least 1917 to play or sing the national anthem in any public place “except as an entire and separate composition or number and without embellishments or national or other melodies,” or as part of a medley, or to permit it so to be played. That now is no longer the case.
- Getting its own bullet point is the final clause of Section 750.542, which also made it illegal to play the anthem at or in any public place “for dancing or as an exit march.” I’ve never actually tried to dance to the national anthem, but it strikes me as not very danceable. If you’ve been wanting to do a dance remix, though, Michigan is now safe for that.
- It is probably not safe for dueling, although the amendments do get rid of what was left of Chapter XXX.
I’d have sworn I had written at least one post about Michigan’s anthem-preservation act, but I guess not. I have written about anti-dueling laws before, mostly using Kentucky as an example because it still makes its lawyers swear they’ve never fought in a duel. Dueling was more popular in the South, but apparently was considered a problem in Michigan at one point as well. Michigan addressed this issue in 2010, when it seems to have left the ban intact but reduced the penalty to a misdemeanor (it repealed the section making it a felony). Now it’s repealed the misdemeanor section too, as well as the section making it illegal to insult anyone in print for refusing to duel (doing it verbally was still okay), and the one clarifying that fencing was not considered a “duel” as long as protective clothing was worn.
This should not be interpreted, as I’ve said before, as meaning that the legislature wants to encourage dueling. Almost certainly the winner of a duel would still be prosecuted for something, while the loser would still be dead. It just means the legislature believes that the practice is sufficiently rare and covered by other laws that special anti-dueling laws are now unnecessary. So don’t tell anybody I said dueling was legal in Michigan.
Are all the pointless laws off the books now? Absolutely not. It appears to still be technically illegal, for example, to commit either “blasphemy” (750.102-.103) or “the abominable and detestable crime against nature” (750.158), although both of these pretty much fall into the category of Laws That Are No Longer Enforceable But Nobody Really Wants to Sponsor a Bill Saying So. If you’re a worried former blasphemer, at least, you can take some comfort in the fact that under Section 750.103 (“Cursing and Swearing”), the statute of limitations is only five days long. God may punish you after that time, of course, but the State will not.