ACLU-SC Sues to Strike Down Law Requiring Gay Men to Register as Sex Offenders for Consensual Intimate Acts
December 22, 2021
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, along with co-counsel Matthew Strugar, filed a federal lawsuit challenging South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s enforcement of an unconstitutional anti-sodomy statute.
In 2003, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that the government has no right to criminalize private intimate relationships between consenting adults. It was a watershed moment in the LGBTQ+ struggle—a legal proclamation that love isn’t criminal, and that gay people have the same right to “define one’s concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” that heterosexuals do.
Now in 2021—over eighteen years later—South Carolina continues to flout the clear holding of Lawrence by requiring our client, John Doe, to register as a sex offender for the “crime” of having consensual gay sex with another man in 2001. This is wrong, violates well-established constitutional law, and must be stopped. Being gay isn’t a crime, and having gay sex isn’t a sex offense. Enough is enough.
“South Carolina is the last state in the country to require sex offender registration for pre-Lawrence sodomy convictions,” writes Allen Chaney, ACLU-SC’s Legal Director. “This practice needlessly subjects law abiding citizens to the horrors of the sex offender registry and demonstrates a deeply troubling animosity by the State towards the gay community.”
“It is unconscionable that in 2021, South Carolina would still put people convicted of having gay sex on the sex offender registry,” said Matthew Strugar, a private attorney representing Doe alongside ACLU-SC. “This kind of overt, state-sanctioned homophobia would have been surprising 30 years ago. Today it is shocking. And it is unconstitutional.”