It’s illegal to throw confetti in Mobile, Alabama. In Iowa, it’s illegal for a moustachioed man to kiss a woman in public. In Vermont, a married woman is technically still legally obliged to ask her husband’s permission to wear false teeth. And in the tiny Montana town of Summer Junction, it’s illegal to dance across a pedestrian crossing.
Yep, weird laws still survive on the statute books—in surprisingly robust numbers—all over the place. But in 1997, that gave the good people of the aforementioned town of Summer Junction a superb idea: to pass a law outlawing the passing of weird laws.
Order in court: The law that outlawed laws (Wix)
Sick and tired of that whole dancing-across-pedestrian-crossings law landing them an ignominious spot in lists of America’s wackiest laws, on 20 January 1997 the town council in Summer Junction voted to enact what they termed a “Usefulness Clause”—that is, a new law prohibiting the passing of any further laws “the usefulness of which can be deemed questionable by an official majority.”
What did that mean? Well, in practice the clause worked like this. If, after that date, the town council passed a new law that any council member later thought unreasonable—and ultimately risked heaping more ignominy on the town—then he or she could make an official request to have its usefulness called back into question in the council chamber. They could then plead their case to have the law repealed, and put the matter back to a vote of the council’s members. If the vote were successful, then the passing of the law would be deemed retrospectively illegal, and it would be promptly pulled from the statute books.
If all that seems a little unnecessarily confusing, then you’re quite right—yes, it was. But things got even more confusing just two months after the passing of the town’s Usefulness Clause, when a request came to have the council vote on the usefulness of the Usefulness Clause itself.
Fortunately, that vote passed by a majority of 14 to 9—and the law remains in place to this day.