Illinois History Minutes

July 28 Illinois History Minute


It’s July 28th. And on this day in 1961, Governor Otto Kerner signed a major overhaul of Illinois’ criminal code … covering everything from police powers to when abortion was permitted.

News coverage at the time said little about one major change. Illinois’ old law banning sodomy had been removed entirely, and Illinois became the first U.S. state to decriminalize homosexuality.

The Reverend James Jones, an Episcopal priest, and Chicago lawyer Paul Goldman had lobbied for the change. Goldman, who was straight, said he was moved to action after discovering the suicide note of his gay law school roommate.

Over the next forty years, 35 states also repealed their sodomy laws. In 2003, a U-S Supreme Court ruling invalidated sodomy laws in the 14 states that still had them.