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Lawmakers in the state of New York are working to pass a bill to scrap the crime of infidelity among married people to make adultery legal.

New York is one of 16 states where marital cheating is still a criminal offence, as adultery is still treated as a felony in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan.

According to The Telegraph, adultery, which has been on the books since 1907, is a misdemeanour with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or 90 days in jail, and New York politicians are poised to abolish it.

The offence was introduced at the period when adultery was the only way of ending a marriage and legislators were determined to reduce the number of divorces.

The first prosecution, which took place weeks after the law came into effect, involved a married Coney Island investor who left his wife for a 25-year-old woman who was working in the millinery section of a department store.

Prosecutions are now extremely rare, with only about a dozen since 1972, with convictions in five cases.

The last was in New York in 2010, involving an incident in a park. However, the case was dropped as part of a plea deal.

The bill to decriminalize adultery in New York was introduced by a Democrat, Charles Lavine, saying, “The state has no business regulating consensual sexual behaviour between adults.”

He added, “It just makes no sense whatsoever and we’ve come a long way since intimate relationships between consenting adults are considered immoral.

“It’s a joke. This law was someone’s expression of moral outrage.”

The attempts to scrap the law were made several times with the first time one brought up as far back as 1964, but the proposals never led to a change in law.

The bill has passed through the New York Assembly, and is now awaiting approval from the state senate.

With politicians now regarding the law as archaic, the measure is set to be confined to legislative history in New York.

Meanwhile, the Catholic church has not objected to the proposed change, as the Executive Director of the New York Catholic Conference, Dennis Poust, said, “Adultery is a sin. I don’t know if it’s a crime.”

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