Legislation removing penalty for adultery goes down to defeat

Tuesday, May 4, 2021
 | 
Steve Jordahl (OneNewsNow.com)

wedding ringsAdultery is still illegal in North Carolina after a bill died in committee last week that would have repealed a law that allows a spouse to sue their partner's paramour for "alienation of affection."

Jere Royall of North Carolina Family Policy Council says the law – which has been on the books for more than 150 years – gives the victim of the affair some recourse to punish the offender.

"This provides a remedy for the wronged spouse to pursue," he explains. "North Carolina does still have a criminal law against adultery, but it's rarely, if ever, enforced. So, this civil action really is the only practical, legal remedy against a third party who's committed adultery."

The Democratic lawmaker who sponsored House Bill 485 argued that the law is "archaic and antiquated," but it has been discouraging affairs in the Tar Heel State since the 1850s. Royall notes the concept goes back much further – all the way to the stone tablets that came down from Mt. Sinai. But he says North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still outlaw adultery.

North Carolina"Right now, as far as the civil penalty, there are fewer than ten states now; as far as criminal laws, there are fewer than 20 states that still have criminal laws – but if they're like North Carolina, they're rarely, if ever, enforced," he adds.

The family advocate explains that marriage is foundational to society – and he points out that undermining the institution can damage not only the sacred union between the husband and wife, but devastate their children as well.

"We in North Carolina and, of course, around this country would hope that our government would see how important it is to preserve and protect and defend the institution of marriage," says Royall.

After all, he notes, the purpose of laws is to either encourage good conduct or discourage wrongful conduct. "And this is a clear example of where there's wrongful conduct – and we need laws in place to discourage that," he adds.

Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina agrees, saying the law has been an "effective deterrent to home-wrecking."

"[We believe] we still need a law, like the one we currently have, that says 'would-be adulterers, beware. In North Carolina, having an affair that contributes to the break-up of someone's marriage may cost you in a big way,'" Creech argued during testimony before a State House committee last week.

Both Creech and Royall testified against HB 485. The final committee vote was a 4-4 split.

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