Having a federal governing system, we experience law making at all levels. County commissions and city councils manage day-to-day affairs for our neighborhoods, and state governments express reserved powers not specifically given as a responsibility to the federal government. Some states have done alright, and some are not so good. However, one thing that binds every state is that they have some pretty stupid laws on the books.
Here is a look at one law from every state that should just make us scratch our heads a little bit.
“The great people I’ve met always have time for the nicities.”
If we didn’t have state governments, we probably would be a wily rabble. This is probably why Alabama prohibits flicking boogers in the wind and Baltimore, Maryland doesn’t let you spit on the sidewalk.
In New York, you may not stick your thumb to your nose and wiggle your fingers at someone, which is probably why New Yorkers give each other the finger instead. West Virginia ensures that cowards are not mocked by jailing folks who tease those unwilling to accept a challenge.
Pocatello, Idaho doesn’t let motorists or pedestrians scowl or grimace, and much to the chagrin of pet lovers, Oklahoma will throw you in the clink for making a funny face at a dog.
Montana doesn’t let men with shaved chests run around in public, which is probably smart anyways given how depressingly cold it gets there in the winter. New Mexico doesn’t let women go into public unshaven, a law probably better served for states with a coastline.
Washington won’t let motorists with criminal intentions enter a city’s limits without notifying the chief of police, and Texas really enforces pleasantries by requiring criminals to notify their victims 24 hours in advance of the nature of their uncommitted crimes. Louisiana really controls the violent assault weapons of dentures by charging someone with aggravated assaulted if they bite someone using false teeth. By contrast, using natural teeth is only simple assault.
Finally, being rude has no place in America either. In North Dakota you may not wear your hat while dancing, and Connecticut ensures politicians get their point across by not allowing anyone to start a Scrabble game while waiting for them to speak.
“Ultimately property rights and personal rights are the same thing.”
Property rights are the standard hat in a free society, which really should make us wonder at some of these laws that govern the way we use it. Kennesaw, Georgia requires — yes, REQUIRES — you to own a gun if you own a home. If you own that home in Pennsylvania, though, don’t bother sweeping any dirt under the rug because it is illegal.
Think you’re free of government control if you’re in agriculture? Think again. Vermont requires restaurants to serve margarine in triangle patties, and Wisconsin won’t serve it in prison at all. New Jersey won’t let you sell cabbage on Sundays, and Oregon prohibits canned corn from being used as fishing bait. And just in case you’re worrying about those pesky laws regarding cattle in New Hampshire, please fit your cattle with a device to collect their feces when they cross state highways.
The ultimate piece of property that most Americans own is a car of some sort, except maybe Hawaii; the state requires boat ownership by all citizens. Glendale, Arizona doesn’t let you drive your car in reverse, which personally makes me happy that I don’t have to wait for Esther to back her car into the parking spot. In order to prevent the honky-tonk from being interrupted, Arkansas prohibits honking car horns at any establishment which serves cold beverages or sandwiches after 9 pm.
Michigan won’t let you have sex in a car unless it’s parked on your own property. While you can do it anywhere you want in Maine, don’t plan on buying that car on a Sunday unless it has plumbing.
“The things that stand out are often the oddities.”
There are just some laws that are so weird, so strange they just make you feel dumber for knowing they exist. Cedar Rapids, Iowa forbids the telling of fortunes, but South Carolina will let you if you get a permit. In another part of the side show, Springfield, Illinois prohibits midget tossing in bars but does allow it in other parts of the city with a permit.
Just to show us that our best interests are in mind, Florida will fine women who kill themselves by electrocution in a bathtub with a “self-beautification utensil” and a California city will fine you if a detonated nuclear device didn’t destroy everything first.
Crimes against natures are forbidden in Tennessee, and one cannot kill a housefly within 160 feet of a church in Ohio. In what should be common sense, Alaska doesn’t want you waking bears for the purposes of taking a picture, the chicken labor lobby has set the egg laying workday in Virginia between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Nebraska saves the whales by prohibiting whale fishing in the state.
Finally, don’t think that physical impossibilities are out of the question. Minnesota will ask you for your date of death on tax forms, and Kansas will not let trains pass one another on the same track until one train passes the other.
“Real magic in relationships means an absence of judgment of others.”
However, there is no magic in these state laws that govern our relationships with one another. In fact, it is surprising that relationships last at all! At least Delaware is trying to help by preventing marriages that occur on a dare. Mississippi won’t even let a man seduce a woman by promising her marriage, much to the chagrin of frat boys at Ole Miss.
North Carolina annuls marriages if one of the partners is impotent, and Rhode Island allows for lunacy as grounds for divorce. Better keep your women on a leash in Utah, because husbands are responsible for their wives’ criminal behavior in their presence.
In the battle to make sure Americans practice safe sex, Wyoming doesn’t allow it to happen while standing up in a walk-in meat freezer. You might be surprised, though, that it’s actually warmer in there than it is outside when the wind blows. Sioux City, South Dakota requires all hotels to have two twin beds and doesn’t let anyone have any fun on the floor in-between. Just for good measure, Massachusetts doesn’t allow women on top.
Keeping people moral is critical, too, which is why Durango, Colorado doesn’t let people dress unbecoming of your sex, and Kentucky requires you register nude people who are in your home. In order to prevent those charlatans from causing problems, Missouri requires single men between 18 and 50 to pay a $1 tax, and Indiana says you have to work on a public road six days a year.