How a bill becomes a law becomes a joke
We know how a bill becomes a law. We’ve all seen School House Rock. But what about a law that becomes a joke? Believe it or not, there are plenty still in effect.
Sober bars and eating people
Would you believe it if I told you that in Alaska it is illegal to get drunk in a bar? Or that as recently as 1990, Idaho became the only state to outlaw cannibalism, although it is still legal to consume human flesh in life-and-death situations; so maybe don’t take that Mt. Everest backpacking trip with Hannibal Lecter.
florida says “no” to dwarf-tossing
There are tons of antiquitous laws that are still in effect to this day. And while most of them are laughable, like North Carolina’s cap on how many hours your Gran can play bingo at her local rec center, some of them are a joke; and not in the funny-ha-ha-let’s-see-how-many-dwarfs-we-can-toss-before-we-get-arrested (fucking Florida, no surprise there) kind of joke. No, the kind of joke where you only laugh because your brain has skipped several checkpoints in your emotional bank and you’ve entered the zone where you can’t even entertain the concept of anger, so you just sort of maniacally laugh (I have a theory that our brains do this to keep us from doing murdery things).
Supreme being (we don’t mean Diana Ross)
Take for instance this law in Texas that appears to blur the lines between “Church and State” by disallowing Atheists from holding public office. More specifically, the law states that nobody can …”be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being”. If you are reading this while high, that was Supreme Being, not Supreme Burrito, which would be just as crazy but far more delicious. So in a nutshell: Scientology = ok. Science = not ok. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising given Texas’ long historic record of demonizing anyone who isn’t Christian/white/straight/male. Texas is hardly the only state to still have these troubling laws on the books.
Speaking of troubling things you didn’t know but probably should…
I think all decent people can unanimously agree that human trafficking is pretty fucking awful, and because there are some not-so-decent people out there who believe otherwise, we have laws in place to punish those twat waffles. No-brainer, right? So if I told you that Pennsylvania went a step further by adding a very specific law that makes selling your baby illegal, you might say “That’s cool and all, but isn’t that a bit redundant?” The answer is: It sure as hell should be, but the problem isn’t the law itself, it’s the consequences of breaking this law. Yes, selling your baby for Steelers tickets is a crime, but the punishment is a first class misdemeanor with a punishment of no more than 5 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Sure, some of you may think that’s a fair punishment (you are entitled to your opinion but you are wrong and it should be harsher), but consider that the punishment (still in PA) for growing even one marijuana plant in your basement/closet/sex dungeon/wherever in your home, is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. I should add that this does not include any intent to sell said plant, this is just to grow it; selling your goods would tack on additional charges ranging from 1-10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, depending on the amount.
at least we aren’t the worst
The U.S. is hardly the worst country when it comes to asinine laws. Places like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Somalia actually imprison rape victims for the crime committed against them. An appalling case in Afghanistan slapped a 19 year old impregnated rape victim with a 12 year sentence and pressure to marry her rapist. Sure, there have been a number of very public stories of victim-blaming and laughable punishments for cases of rape in the U.S., but at least we aren’t subjected to biblical style lashings like our Middle Eastern neighbors (silver lining?).
enter the chinese
Has your mother ever sent you an email that’s disguised as a family recipe for King Ranch Chicken, only to tack on some passive aggressive reminder at the end? They usually say something along the lines of: “I saw on <social media platform> that you’ve been spending a lot of time with <name of friend/significant other>, it would be nice if you spent some of that time visiting your mother. I won’t be alive forever, in case you care.”? Well here in the U.S. the only punishment for not visiting your folks is crippling guilt and emotional baggage. In China it’s illegal (and only since 2013). While the law is difficult to enforce, it can lead to lawsuits which could result in a court order to visit your parents. Disobeying the order could land you in jail. Talk about an awkward family reunion.
let’s lighten the mood
Okay, I took a pretty hard 90 degree turn between dwarf-tossing and religious discrimination. I’d like you to feel okay after reading all of this, not utterly depressed and elbow-deep in a jar of peanut butter while watching season 2 of Friends (this may or may not be what I am currently doing). So I’ll leave you with this:
Abhorrent punishments for victims aside, there are some pretty crazy laws around the world that are still alive and enforceable. To bring the mood back up I am including a few of my personal favorites. So put down the peanut butter:
those damn shifty-eyed Englishmen
England: The Salmon Act of 1986 states that it is illegal to carry a salmon while looking suspicious. If it seems fishy, it isn’t. It’s a real law and that was a real, albeit easy, fish pun.
thanks a lot, switzerland
Switzerland: I can’t believe this even needs to be written down as a law, but it’s illegal to hike in the nude. Evidently some German guy ruined it for us all by strolling past a picnicking family, thus exposing his bratwurst to children who I imagine look like this.
and you thought it sucked waiting for the cable guy
Australia: It was hard to find just one bizarre law from down under, but the one against changing your own lightbulbs has to be in the top 5. In Victoria, Australia only a licensed electrician can change your bulbs.
a personal favorite
I’ve saved the best for last, which makes you special, as it’s very rare that I give my best at anything. So here we go. This Alabama law serves two purposes for Americans today.
Firstly, it states:
(a) A person commits the offense of unlawful bear exploitation if he or she knowingly does any one of the following:
(1) Promotes, engages in, or is employed at a bear wrestling match.
I need to know if the bear is held to these same standards, or is he not offered compensation to begin with? If so, is he paid in salmon? Is he aware that he can be arrested in England if he looks suspicious when he receives payment?
(2) Receives money for the admission of another person to a place kept for bear wrestling.
So if you were to sell Bear Wrestling Match tickets to, let’s say, “Grizzly Bear vs. Bear Grylls: The Two Bear Tango”, you will be just as guilty in the eyes of the law as the host of Get Out Alive (cleverly named for this exact post).
(3) Sells, purchases, possesses, or trains a bear for bear wrestling.
Where can you do any of those things without throwing up some serious red flags? Asking for a friend.
(4) For purposes of exploitation, subjects a bear to surgical alteration in any form, including, but not limited to, declawing, tooth removal, and severing tendons.
Again, HOW? What kind of licensed Bear Surgeon (is that thing?) wouldn’t have some questions about why you want to remove the teeth of your pet bear? Or even ask wtf you are doing with a pet bear. That shit might fly in Alaska, but the south isn’t where the Grizzly Man met his fate and pet bears tend to raise some questions down there.
and Secondly (and more importantly)
It proves that once upon a time Americans were so bad ass that we wrestled Grizzly bears while smashed on cheap whiskey. As a comparison to how we are these days, I have to take a Xanax before I watch Game of Thrones.