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Things that were once illegal in America

  • 30 things that were once illegal in America

    When it comes to the rule of law, the United States has often been regarded as being relatively lenient. While some countries have such rules as banning residents from chewing gum or preventing women from being able to drive (until very recently), America prides itself on its tenets of freedom.

    But the American laws of today have in part been a result of trial and error—whether through establishment of new amendments or abolishment of rulings that the government later felt were archaic. Many today might find it hard to imagine they were even written into law in the first place. Using a variety of sources, Stacker found 30 things that were once illegal in America. Some have been widely publicized or featured prominently in history books while others may be more surprising.

    ALSO: Weird, wild UFO sightings from throughout history

  • Alcohol

    From 1920 to 1933, the United States government issued a ban on the production, importation, and sale of alcohol. Religious members of government hoped the 18th Amendment would promote temperance and believed its passing to be a moral victory. But the rise in bootleg spirits and a gang violence led to the repeal of the 18th—and ratification of the 21st Amendment—13 years later.

  • Interracial marriage

    Interracial marriage and sex, known as miscegenation, was outlawed since before the United States was established as a country. But in 1967, anti-miscegenation laws were deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case. Today, marriages are more diverse than ever—as of a 2015 Pew Research Center analysis, nearly 17% of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity.

  • Shopping on Sunday

    Sunday laws, which are also known as Blue Laws, are laws which restrict activities on Sundays for religious reasons. They have been struck down and upheld all over the county since the 19th century. One of these blue laws restricted people from buying or selling goods on Sundays to promote it as a day of rest. Though many counties opted out in this in the mid-1960s, it is still in effect in communities like Bergen, N.J.

  • Buying a 15.5-ounce beer

    Before the 21st century, it was illegal for Floridians to buy any beers that were 15.5 ounces. The state law stated that “[a]ll malt beverages packaged in individual containers sold or offered for sale by vendors at retail in this state” to be “in individual containers containing only 8, 12, 16, or 32 ounces of such malt beverages.” This was thought to be to either restrict the sale of European brews—whose milliliter bottles didn’t convert to whole numbers in the U.S.—or because it was easier for taxation. But this wording was erased in 2001.

  • Getting your fortune told

    Several states used to have bans on fortune telling. In Nebraska, a case went to the Court of Appeals in which a man was charged with running an illegal fortune-telling business. The law was overturned after he argued it violated the First Amendment, but the law is still present in states such as Pennsylvania.

  • Birth control

    Both married couples and single women were prohibited from using birth control before 1965—and in following years, it remained illegal in 26 states for unmarried women. The Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional in Griswold v. Connecticut, and today “the pill” is used by around 10 million women each year; not to mention other hormonal and non-hormonal method).

  • Mocking someone for not agreeing to a duel

    A group was tasked in 1999 to get rid of some of Michigan’s archaic, bizarre laws that were still in effect. One that was still on the books until 2015 was the law prohibiting “reproachful or contemptuous language” in print against anyone who declines a duel challenge.

  • Dancing to the National Anthem

    Another of these Michigan laws was that “The Star-Spangled Banner” could not be played “for dancing.” This was repealed in 2015.

  • Playing the National Anthem in public

    Citizens also could not play the song in any public place, including theaters, cinemas, and restaurants, without performing it in its entirety.

  • Putting your own spin on the National Anthem

    Not only was dancing to the national anthem in Michigan illegal before 2015, but performing the song with any embellishments was as well.

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