Man forced to register as sex offender for having consensual gay sex

A man sat on the ground holding his face in despair

A South Carolina man who has been forced to register as a sex offender for having consensual gay sex has launched a legal challenge against the state.

The man, identified as “John Doe”, was convicted under South Carolina’s anti-sodomy or “buggery” law in 2001, according to the Post and Courier.

The Lawrence v Texas Supreme Court ruling in 2003 invalidated all remaining sodomy laws across the US, but many states, including South Carolina, still have the defunct laws on their books. 

Doe was pardoned for his “crime” in 2006 but is still required to register as a sex offender, according to a lawsuit which names state attorney general Alan Wilson and chief of South Carolina law enforcement Mark Keel as defendants.

The lawsuit states: “He suffers severely under the sex offender label, which involves the state in the daily management of his life.”

It explains that Doe must report twice a year in person to register as a sex offender, providing a “encyclopedic” amount of personal information before being listed on a publicly available database, and failure to register can result in fines and prison time.

“As a result of defendants’ unlawful conduct, Doe is suffering harm, including embarrassment, humiliation, shame, fear, loss of opportunity (including, but not limited to, career, professional, economic, housing, educational, and social opportunities), and stigma,” the lawsuit adds.

Two other states impose sex offender registration for people convicted under sodomy laws – Mississippi and Idaho – and according to the lawsuit, there are currently at least 18 other people required to register as sex offenders because of prosecutions under South Carolina’s buggery law.

Doe is demanding that not only is he removed from the sex offender register, but that all others in the state are no longer required to register under the outdated and discriminatory policy.

The federal complaint was filed on Doe’s behalf in the US District Court of South Carolina on 22 December by attorneys Matthew Strugar and Allen Chaney.


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