kaitlyn-hunt

A Florida teen named Kaitlyn Hunt could face a felony conviction, jail time, and a lifetime on the sex offenders registry for her relationship with her 15-year-old girlfriend.

Kaitlyn’s case is quickly gathering notoriety for the apparent role anti-gay bias has played in both her initial arrest and the lack of leniency she is facing. According to a Facebook page run by Kaitlyn’s family and supporters, Kaitlyn began dating a female schoolmate at the beginning of the school year, when the younger girl was 14 and she was 17:

“The girls were peers in the same social circle, and as happens every day high schools across America, their friendship eventually developed into more. In September, shortly after Kaitlyn’s 18th birthday, the girls began dating, and they eventually expressed their affection for one another in intimate ways.”

Acording to Kaitlyn’s mother Hunt Smith, the younger girl’s family didn’t like it that their daughter was engaged in a same-sex relationship, and believed Kaitlyn had “made their daughter gay.” After Kaitlyn had turned 18 (the age of consent in Florida), the now 15-year-old girl’s family reported Kaitlyn to the police for statutory rape, and she was arrested and charged with two counts of felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12-16, a serious charge which could result in jail time and lifelong sex offender status. Kaitlyn has already been kicked out of school and sent to an “alternative” high school.

Does this seem fair to you? After all, statutory rape laws were intended to protect children from sexual contact with adults, not with other children. It seems like there should be a special law for teens who are close in age, but whose birthdays create a year or two during which their relationship is illegal, no?

Lawmakers thought so too, and that’s why there are “Romeo and Juliet” laws in many states accounting for consensual activities between two teens who are close in age. There is even one in Florida, which reads:

Section 943.04354, F.S. (“Romeo and Juliet” Law):

• Provides petition process for removal of the requirement to register for qualifying offenders who are already on the sex offender registry.
• For offenses that occurred on or after July 1, 2007, allows qualifying offenders to make a motion to the court for relief of the requirement to register.
• Allows a 4 year age gap between the victim and the offender for exclusion of the registration requirements for certain offenses that are consensual.
• Victim must be at least 14 but no older than 17 years of age.
Section 794.05, F.S.:
• Provides an age-gap provision that allows a 16 or 17 year old to consent to consensual conduct with a person 16-23 years of age.

It is unclear whether this law protects same sex couples. But even if it did, it still would not make the two felony charges go away.

Of the countless non-statutory rapes that the police fail to prosecute each year, and the countless consensual relationships that form between high school students who are close in age, doesn’t it seem just a little bit fishy that this is the case the state of Florida has decided to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law? It seems to me like this is a combination of 1.) the clumsiness of the law in general as it relates to teens in consensual relationships, and 2.) homophobia on the part of the younger girl’s family and the state.

Supporters have set up a Facebook page dedicated to spreading the word about Kaitlyn’s case, and online hacktivist collective Anonymous has thrown in its two cents, as well. “Kaitlyn Hunt is a bright young girl who was involved in a consensual, same-sex relationship while both she and her partner were minors,” Anonymous said in a statement. “She has a big future ahead of her and there are people, thousands of people in fact, that have no intention of allowing you to ruin it with your rotten selective enforcement.” Ominous.

(Via HuffPost)

Photo: Free Kate Facebook Page