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Homo-news in Durham: spurned wife sues ex-hubby's boyfriend

The Durham Herald-Sun is reporting a different kind of alienation of affection lawsuit here that also managed to make the wires over at 365gay.com. We’ve got a few cobweb-laced laws on the books, and this is one of them.

An unusual same-sex alienation-of-affections lawsuit has been filed against Stephen Glenn Barefoot of Durham, accusing him of wooing away a woman’s husband. Barefoot had little comment Thursday. “If there is [such a lawsuit], I don’t know about it,” he said. “I haven’t seen it. It’s news to me.”

Court officials said all alienation-of-affections lawsuits are rare and that same-sex complaints are almost unheard of. In fact, North Carolina is one of only about a dozen states that still allow such court claims. Some legislators believe the alienation-of-affections doctrine is hopelessly antiquated. And there have been at least two unsuccessful attempts to remove it from the books in the Tar Heel State.

In the Durham County Superior Court lawsuit, Pamela Lavone Putjenter alleges that Barefoot began to “willfully and intentionally seduce, entice and alienate the affections” of her husband in January 2002. She says her husband, Ronald Joseph Putjenter, eventually admitted to the alleged affair. As a result, the “genuine love and affection” between the Putjenters was “lost and destroyed,” and the couple separated in March 2004, the suit adds. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages of at least $10,000 each.

The state Court of Appeals tried to eliminate alienation-of-affections claims in 1984, saying they were an outdated throwback to a time when husbands were thought to own their wives. Such lawsuits were “uncultivated and obsolete” in the late 20th century, the judges said. But the state Supreme Court overturned the appeals court a year later, saying the lower court had exceeded its authority. Alienation-of-affections claims remained on the books.

…To win an alienation claim, the plaintiffs must demonstrate they had a relationship of “genuine love and affection” with their spouses to begin with. Otherwise, there would be nothing to be alienated.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding