Did Florida accidentally ban sex?

The state legislature bans bestiality — but does the law's wording make sex between humans a misdemeanor, too?

A couple walks off into the sunset on a Florida beach.
(Image credit: Richard Hamilton Smith/CORBIS)

Florida legislators passed a law banning bestiality last week, but they might have been more restrictive than they thought, according to a population-genetics graduate student blogging as Southern Fried Scientist. His theory? The law bars people from having sex with "animals," so — since humans are animals — technically it will be misdemeanor, "effective Oct. 1, 2011, for anyone to have sex in Florida." Unless, in keeping with the wording of the law, they follow "accepted animal husbandry practices." Is there anything to this?

No, tell your grandparents to carry on as before: Florida has not banned sex, says Daniel Foster at National Review. "If you read the bill — and, if exhaustive clinical descriptions of the several methods of interspecies coitus is your thing, I highly recommend you do — you'll see that 'persons' are distinguished from 'animals' early and often." There is "absolutely zero reason" to think any judge would interpret this as anything but a ban on bestiality.

"Your law-abiding grandparents can relax: Florida did not accidentally ban sex"

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Scoff at your peril: Detractors insist Southern Fried Scientist is being too literal, says Robin Marty at Care2. But if your best defense of a law is that it's almost certain that courts would interpret it properly, there's a problem with the wording. And in Florida, where politicians have proposed nearly 20 different abortion bans and chastised a colleague for saying "uterus" on the chamber floor, anything is possible.

"Oops! Florida accidentally bans sex"

OK, you have had your laugh: The wording of the law is actually pretty clear, says Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog. And if any person is ever prosecuted under this law for having sex with another human — it will never happen, but say it does — the court will say "animal" means "non-human animal" to "avoid absurdity" and respect the intent of the law, not to mention the "commonly used (if scientifically inaccurate) understanding of the term 'animal.'"

"Dept. of Ridiculous Statutory Interpretation: Florida did not ban sex"

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