No one knows exactly how Valentine’s Day began, but what would it be without a kiss between lovers? Well, folks Long Beach was faced with that possibility when in 1918 Long Beach became a kiss-less beach. To keep Long Beach a nice moral town city officials passed an ordinance prohibiting caressing, hugging, fondling, embracing, kissing or wrestling on the beach and at the Pike. The law also prohibited a person from resting his or her head on another person’s lap. If you broke the law you would be fined, imprisoned or both.
A. T. Sackett became the first man arrested under section two of Ordinance B - 456. Sackett was given an option---a fine of $l5 or spending 15 days in jail. He told the judge the young woman in whose company he was when arrested was the girl to whom he was engaged to marry. Sackett pleaded guilty to violating the ordinance, but declined to pay the fine levied by the court and appealed on constitutional grounds. “Under the Long Beach law a man can be arrested for kissing his mother or his sister,” he said. “My arrest and fining was unjust.”
Sackett won on his appeal. Superior Judge Willis declared the local imitation of Connecticut's blue laws unconstitutional and "an unwarranted interference with the inalienable right of liberty and pursuit of happiness."
His decision was also based on the fact that none of the acts listed in the ordinance could be declared wrong in themselves, but depended upon two things: First, whether the act, otherwise harmless, was performed in a public place. Second, whether the participants of the act were of the opposite sex. In other words, a young man could kiss, hug and embrace his girlfriend in the privacy of her own home, but should they do it outside, they would both be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Also, a male child could place its head upon the lap of his father and a female child on the lap of her mother on the beach, but if their respective positions were reversed they too would be guilty of breaking the law. The remaining portion of the ordinance, governing public morals, was unaffected by Judge Willis' decision. Thanks to Judge Willis, a public kiss was now legal in Long Beach.
You can find more of Claudine Burnett's stories from the past HERE.