A South Carolina man who was forced to register as a sex offender because of a 2001 conviction for consensual sex with another man filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 22 challenging his status — and the law itself.
The law has been on the books since 1712 when North and South Carolina split in two, even though sodomy laws banning same-sex relations were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. The unnamed man received a full pardon in 2006, yet he is still required to register as a sex offender.
The plaintiff brought the action to “prevent the continued application and enforcement of 'South Carolina’s Buggery prohibition,'” the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina declared. “The information that offenders are required to report upon registration is encyclopedic in scope.”
The U.S. Supreme Court found in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case that so-called “sodomy” laws banning oral and anal sex were unconstitutional, yet the lawsuit claims South Carolina still enforces the section of its sodomy law relating to its registry of sex offenders. The law still treats consensual same-sex relations the same as sex with animals.
The unnamed man was convicted in 2001 for what the law describes as “the abominable crime of buggery, whether with mankind or with beast.” He was pardoned after the 2003 Lawrence decision but is still required to register as a sex offender.
“The registration obligations, sort of, take over your life,” Matthew Strugar, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuit on the plaintiff’s behalf, told the Post and Courier, noting the man must provide detailed personal information to the local sheriff’s twice a year, must discuss his online activities, get fingerprinted, and more. His status is known locally to schools and he was even once denied a professional license because of his status.
The lawsuit notes the state’s Buggery law predates the American Revolution when the Province of Carolina was split in two in 1712. The law originally carried a death sentence, which was amended in 1869 to a mandatory five-year prison sentence. The law remained unchanged until 1993 when the law was changed to a five-year maximum prison sentence.
The lawsuit not only seeks to have his name permanently removed from the sex offender registry and its reporting requirement but also to have the courts find the sodomy law and its sex offender requirements unconstitutional.