A 1992 ruling by the state Supreme Court abolished the alienation of affection law. It ought to stay dead.
Unfortunately, some state senators are trying to resurrect a law that would allow jilted husbands and wives to sue people for stealing their spouses.
"It should be a law. It's just like if someone steals your car. If someone steals your wife," there should be consequences, said sponsor Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington.
Actually, Knotts has highlighted what was wrong with this law in the first place. People steal property, not wives, and wives aren't property.
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The proposed law would allow wives to sue for alienation of affection, too. But that still is based on the misconception that spouses somehow can be "stolen" against their will.
State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, another of the bill's sponsors, said it is a reaffirmation of traditional family values.
"I think we're trying to give a third party a better way to proceed with his or her anguish than with a gun," he said.
But rather than traditional family values, this bill reinforces traditional sexual stereotypes. As Chief Justice David Harwell wrote in the 1992 majority opinion, these laws "were rooted in antiquated perceptions that wives are chattel of husbands."
A law that allows an aggrieved spouse to sue the third party would be more likely to complicate an already difficult divorce case than to provide relief for the offended spouse. Divorce cases can be tangled enough with this proposal.
One other reason this law was abolished was because of its propensity to be used as blackmail. Husbands would find out their wives were cheating on them and threaten a lawsuit to blackmail the men. South Carolina doesn't need a new law that would serve as leverage for extortion.
In most divorce cases, both parties bear at least some culpability. The assumption that wives can be stolen against their will by slick, rich Lotharios is a musty myth. A stolen wife is an accomplice in the heist.
Lawmakers should leave marital litigation in the family court where it belongs.
State doesn't need to resurrect law that allows lawsuits for alienation of affection.
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