Exposing Archaic and Arcane Laws and Social Justice: A new trend?

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I know you are supposed to wait for three like things to happen before you declare it a trend, and I only know of two, but I figure it is worth mentioning. Maybe we can stretch this coincidence out and make it work for us.

A couple of months ago, it was revealed that a senior Republican legislator in Minnesota was having an affair with a staffer. This was a reasonably powerful individual (the elected official) having an affair with an adult who was also reasonably powerful (a senior staffer) and it was really just their own business, but since she was part of the Republican Leadership and Republicans have this idea of family values that they insist on legislating for the rest of us, her hypocrisy was noted. And, someone added some extra frosting to the icing on the cake by noting that the legislator’s husband had the right to file criminal charges using an arcane and archaic, and rather misogynist, state law. This law provides penalties for a woman who steps out on her husband, but only if the husband files criminal charges with the appropriate law enforcement agency. There is not an equivalent provision for penalties for a man who steps out on her husband. Either our state-wide founding fathers knew this never, ever happened, or …. they knew it happened all the time (with them) and chaos would ensue!

Either way, having the prospect of an old fashioned, misogynist proto-family values type law rise up out of the dustbin of history and bite some significant Republican on the ass was satisfying, even though the likelihood of such charges ever being brought was obviously zero.

This has happened again, but this time with Rush Limbaugh, and the arcane statute has been brought to the foreground by the famous oft-but-not-always feminist lawyer Gloria Allred. As you know, Rush Limbaugh has made a series of asinine statements regarding the sex life of a Georgetown Law student named Sandra Fluke. It turns out that in Florida, there is a law that says that if a man says things about the chastity of a woman, he can be charged by the state.

… Allred … sent a letter to the Palm Beach County Attorney’s Office on Thursday saying prosecutors should consider a charge under an 1883 law making it a misdemeanor to question a woman’s chastity.

“He has personally targeted her and vilified her, and he should have to bear the consequences of his extremely outrageous, tasteless and damaging conduct,” Allred said in a phone interview Friday.

No one seriously thinks this old law will ever be used in an official action; it would surly not survive even initial scrutiny in any court room (not that arcane blue laws have not had their place in court rooms in recent decades). But the absurdity of having a pre-Family Values statute brought against Rush Limbaugh, whose image is in the American Heritage Dictionary next to the definition for “Absurd,” is just plain delicious.

I hope that this is a trend. Every few months there should be some Right Wing Republican either caught in the act or challenged for over the top hateful commentary matched with a still-on-the-books statute that legislates morality just like the Right Wing would desire. Exposing these atavistic statutes, which seem to be quite common in the 50 states and zillion counties parishes, and municipalities, will remind people that they are there, that these laws and these societal fetishes are things of the past, and that they should be removed through the usual processes, and linking these prescriptions and proscriptions with current day personalities will help put their politics in perspective. And it’s kinda fun.

We are reminded, when this sort of thing happens, that not so long ago our society was governed by laws and assumptions that we would see today as ridiculous and unfair. We are also reminded of the surprising degree to which our society has recently shifted toward Christian Fundamentalism, with Republican politicians and the key political philosophers of the Republican Party such as Rush Limbaugh leading the way, following a few decades of movement in a more progressive direction.

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8 thoughts on “Exposing Archaic and Arcane Laws and Social Justice: A new trend?

  1. Classic.

    Sounds like Rush Windbag is guilty of breaking that 1883 law of questioning a woman’s chastity. Not like its not ontape or anything.

    Wonder what’s the accompanying 1883 penalty? A good public flogging? A week in the stocks having rotten fruit thrown at him? Being forced to marry the woman he’s questioned and pay her father &/or husband 100 schillings or something?

    Hopefully for Sandra Fluke not that last one – but itwouldn’t surprise me!

    Of course we’ve always got the modern laws of slander /defamation don’t we which are, surely, also applicable here?

  2. I doubt libel is an issue here, as he criticized a misrepresentation of her opinions that she had expressed as public statements.

    It is a misdemeanor, so I’m thinking it would be the fruit thing with the stocks for a few days.

  3. I doubt libel is an issue here, as he criticized a misrepresentation of her opinions that she had expressed as public statements.

    He made either maliciously or recklessly false statements of fact about her sexual history and occupation, statements that given his influence are likely to be damaging to her reputation and thus her career.

  4. These laws, like the unenforceable anti-atheist laws, definitely need to go.

    “There is not an equivalent provision for penalties for a man who steps out on her husband.”

    I think you meant “a man who steps out on his wife.” 😉

  5. “There is not an equivalent provision for penalties for a man who steps out on her husband.”

    That probably has a lot to do with the fact that gay marriage is not legal in Minnesota.

  6. The Minnesota husband did not report the crime, now isn’t that also a crime?

    Does anyone know if dueling is illegal in Florida?

  7. Anonymous Atheist: Well, that too.

    jnorris, actually, it is not a crime because as I understand it, it is an option. Regarding Dueling, it is actually not illegal i Florida. Unfortunately, some local police and prosecutors would regard shooting or sabering someone an act of assault, which is not legal. On the other hand, there is always this: http://goo.gl/8LJTp

  8. There were a couple of cases somewhere like Virginia, North Carolina or something like that. The husband has an affair. Does anything happen to the husband? NO. The mistress gets sued for alieanation of affection, and, I believe, had to pay a fine or something.

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