List of States Calling Children "Bastards" or "Illegitimate"

Some Relevant Quotes

Marital Status Statistics Including Unwed Births

State Campaigns

Letters to Governors and Attorneys General in:
Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia

Activities in: Arkansas Delaware,  Maine, New Jersey

National Judicial Education

Letter to American Judges Association

Resolution to American Judges Association

Letter to the Editor from Judge Ira J. Raab

Letter to Council of State Appellate Judges

Letter to National Association of Women Judges

Letter to Justice Charles Z. Smith,
Washington Supreme Court

ACLU of Southern California's letters to Judges Assns.

Stop the Stigma

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Bill passed in Illinois


The Old Testament speaks of the sins of the parents being visited upon their children. (Exodus 20:5) Believe it or not, but this punitive biblical admonition is being enforced today by antiquated statutes and unthinking judges in dozens of states in this country.

Even though premarital sex is now the norm in our society, many religious denominations still consider sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and woman to be a sin and unmarried cohabitation to be immoral. What some folks would find surprising is that several states still have laws penalizing consenting heterosexual sex in private or outlawing unmarried cohabitation.

In Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, such "secular sins" are generally punished as misdemeanors carrying penalties of up to several months in jail.

But even more amazing is the fact that in 15 states there are statutes on the books which stigmatize children born to unmarried parents by labeling the offspring as "bastards" or "illegitimate" children. In 37 states, it is the judges who continue to brand these children as "illegitimate."

Every child is legitimate. Judicial and legislative name calling is unconstitutional and must cease.

Lawmakers should remove the term "bastard" from statutes. Legislators and judges should replace "illegitimate child" with more appropriate terminology. A phrase such as "child born to unmarried parents" would do.

Society should show respect as each child is welcomed into this world. The dignity of all children should be honored, including the millions of babies born each year to unmarried parents.