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Gay Man, Still on S. Carolina Sex Offender Registry for Anti-Sodomy Law, Sues

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday January 4, 2022

"John Doe," a South Carolina man convicted under an anti-sodomy law and put on a sex offender registry in 2001, is suing to have his name taken off the list at long last, Charleston, S.C. newspaper the Post and Courier reported.

John Doe was charged under the state's so-called "buggery law," a measure stipulating punishment for same-gender sexual activity, even between consenting adults. He was placed on the state's sex offender registry for what he says was consensual sex.

"The South Carolina law, as well as similar anti-sodomy laws in other states, was rendered invalid after the U.S. Supreme Court determined in 2003 that Texas' anti-sodomy law was unconstitutional," the Post and Courier recalled.

John Doe was pardoned in 2006, five years after the sexual encounter that led to his arrest, but his lawsuit maintains that even in 2022 his name remains, unjustly, on the sex offender registry, the news article said.

According to Doe's lawyer, Matthew Strugar, the "profound impact" of remaining on the registry includes Doe being "required twice a year to report to the local sheriff's office and provide detailed information about himself — his permanent and temporary residence, his place of employment, vehicle information, fingerprints, palm prints and every account he has used online."

The suit seeks the removal of Doe's name from the registry as well as the names of at least 18 other people who also "are required to register as sex offenders in South Carolina due to convictions under the state's buggery law, or due to out-of-state convictions for similar sodomy offenses," the article detailed.

Strugar previously represented Randall Menges, a Montana resident who, as previously reported at EDGE, was required, due to "reciprocity laws," to be listed on Montana's sex offender registry for a conviction stemming from what police reports indicated was consensual gay sex in Idaho — which, along with Mississippi, is among only two states other than South Carolina that still requires registry on sex offender lists for having been convicted of consensual same-gender sexual contact.

Doe's suit asserts that South Carolina's requirement that he remain on the registry has inflicted "harm, including embarrassment, humiliation, shame, fear, loss of opportunity (including, but not limited to, career, professional, economic, housing, educational, and social opportunities), and stigma" on him.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.