5 Weird Laws Still in Effect in the U.S.
Did you know that stealing a horse is still technically punishable by hanging in Tennessee? The nature of the judiciary system lends itself to old, outdated, or just plain bizarre laws sticking around for much longer than they’re needed. Sometimes, quirks in the legislative process bring laws into effect that are completely unenforceable. Did you know Tennessee made it illegal to share your Netflix password?
Our state isn’t alone in possessing strange laws. In Arizona, cutting down a cactus could technically land you in prison for 25 years. Police officers in Ohio are allowed to bite a dog if they think it will calm them down. Texas deemed it necessary to make selling your eyeballs illegal. Rhode Island has a weird hang-up about dental hygiene: state law prohibits selling a toothbrush and toothpaste to the same person on a Sunday.
Amazingly, these laws are all technically still in effect. Want to hear more? Read on for our five favorite weird laws still in effect in the United States.
Kissing Cousins (Utah)
In Utah, it’s illegal to marry your first cousin only if they are younger than 65. In other words, if a senior citizen wants to get hitched to their cousin, that’s fair game. The text of law states: “Marriages between first cousins are allowed if both parties are at least 65 years old or if they are at least 55 years old and unable to reproduce.”
BINGO! (North Carolina)
The state of North Carolina prohibits bingo games from lasting more than five hours. This one we kind of agree with—nobody wants to play bingo for five hours.
The text of the law states: “The number of sessions of bingo conducted or sponsored by an exempt organization shall be limited to two sessions per week and such sessions must not exceed a period of five hours each per session. No two sessions of bingo shall be held within a 48-hour period of time.”
Finger Lickin’ Good (Georgia)
In the town of Gainesville, Georgia, it is against the law to eat fried chicken in any other way than with your hands. Apparently, they take fried chicken very seriously in Gainesville. How seriously? In 2009, a visitor to the town was arrested after eating a piece with a fork.
Off-Kilter (North Carolina)
North Carolina is a bit of a snob when it comes to singing. It’s technically illegal for anyone to sing off-key. Hey, at least it makes karaoke night more tolerable.
Man on Bear Violence (Alabama)
Alabama deemed it necessary to outlaw bear-wrestling matches. The law actually isn’t as strange as it initially sounds. Bear wrestling was a crude form of entertainment in the 1800s. To be clear—these weren’t match-ups between two bears. No, they were contests between brave (but stupid) men and bears provoked to the point of rage.
The text of the law states: “A person commits the offense of unlawful bear exploitation if he or she knowingly does any one of the following: Promotes, engages in, or is employed at a bear wrestling match. Receives money for the admission of another person to a place kept for bear wrestling. Sells, purchases, possesses, or trains a bear for bear wrestling.”
This is just a small selection of the hundreds of weird laws still on the books in the United States. In Los Angeles, it’s illegal to wear a zoot suit. “It’s actually a law from the 1930s and ‘40s,” notes Daniel Pearlman, a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles, “when the war effort needed the kinds of fabrics found in that particular type of attire.”
While many of them are rarely enforced, they remain legally binding until future legislation overturns them. So the next time you’re in Gainesville, Georgia, remember to eat fried chicken with your hands. If you find yourself in North Carolina, be sure your bingo games don’t last more than five hours. And if you’re 65 or older—and you really have a thing for your cousin—move to Utah to be joined in Holy Matrimony.