Did you know that Maryland has a chastity defamation statute? Me neither!
The Guardian informed me that in the state of Maryland, “A single or married woman whose character or reputation for chastity is defamed by any person may maintain an action against that person.” And Melania Trump is alleging that that’s exactly what happened to her earlier this campaign season, when the Daily Mail and a Montgomery County blogger both claimed that she had worked as an escort before marrying her husband. (The blogger, Walter Tarpley, has retracted his post.) Another interesting twist: The lawyer representing Trump in this case is the same guy who brought down Gawker on behalf of Hulk Hogan.
The lawsuit isn’t all that shocking or interesting, given the Trumps’ affinity for taking their nemeses to court. But this chastity defamation law has an interesting backstory: It turns out that before the 19th century, insulting a woman’s sexual past wasn’t considered slander under the standard definition. Defamation laws were actually seen as a step forward, even as they now seem woefully outdated. Okay, I suppose that’s enough legal history for a Friday morning.
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