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Legislature: Goldfinch takes on sex, lies and pinball

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Duelists, adulterers and young pinball wizards will get a break under a bill prefiled by state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch last week. Dance hall operators and railroad section masters will also benefit.

Legislators file bills in advance of the session that begins in January to begin a conversation about policy and politics. Four House bills would prohibit resettlement of Middle Eastern refugees. Four other bills would set waiting periods and criminal background checks for people buying guns.

Goldfinch is the only House member to tackle fornication, defined in state law as “the living together and carnal intercourse with each other or habitual carnal intercourse with each other without living together of a man and woman, both being unmarried.” It’s a crime punishable by a fine of $100 to $500 or six to 12 months in jail, or both at the discretion of the court. Goldfinch wants to repeal it along with 10 other laws.

“It’s simply to get a conversation going about repealing some even more serious and substantive issues,” he said. “I want to get attention to the idea that we can repeal things.”

Goldfinch declined to say what it is he’s really aiming at. He said he didn’t want to generate opposition any earlier than necessary. But there are two, “tax issues that affect the way our state works,” he said. “Everybody agrees that they are not working” but nobody wants to take them on.

So the Republican from Murrells Inlet, now in his second term, decided to start with what he called the “silly things.” “The first thing that’s silly is that we still have those things on the books,” he said.

In the cross-hairs are laws against issuing a challenge to fight or acting as a second in a duel; the seduction of an unmarried woman with a promise of marriage (except in cases where the woman is “lewd and unchaste”); an activity called “adventuring in lotteries”; restrictions on Sunday business, including the operation of dance halls; the removal of railroad lines in communities with over 500 people; the removal of railroad hand cars from the tracks; and against pinball playing by anyone under 18.

“You and I on average break three felony laws a day,” Goldfinch said, declining to elaborate. “There are hundreds of these things. I just picked the first five or six.”

He said he was inspired to clear the books of a few of them when the chairman of the Judiciary Committee told him he had never seen a bill repealed. “We just keep adding legislation,” Goldfinch said. Outdated laws are left on the books and ignored. “It creates an environment where government can be abusive to its citizens.”

Goldfinch is also a candidate for the Senate District 34 seat being vacated by Ray Cleary. Although he hopes to fend off a primary challenge with fundraising and an early round of endorsements, Goldfinch said he isn’t worried that his repeal of the law against adultery might come back to bite him as a campaign sound bite. “The government doesn’t need to be in your bedroom,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who thinks that way.”

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