Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quick comment on Kaitlyn Hunt

In the news last week: 18-year old Kaitlyn Hunt, living in Florida, was in a relationship with a 14-year-old girl.  The relationship was consensual, but the parents of the 14-year-old disapproved, and charged Kaitlyn Hunt with "lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16" (basically statutory rape).  Kaitlyn Hunt falls under Florida's "Romeo-Juliet" laws because her victim was over 14, and Kaitlyn was less than 4 years older.  However, the Romeo-Juliet laws do not prevent her from getting two felonies, they only offer a path for her to get off of the sex offender registry.

The story of Kaitlyn Hunt has been national news, especially in LGB news outlets such as The Advocate.

Nonetheless, I don't really think of it as an LGB issue, but a criminal law issue.  If it is unjust for Kaitlyn Hunt to get two felonies, then it is also unjust for anyone else in the same situation.  The Romeo-Juliet law should be expanded to either reduce sentences or remove charges entirely.  (I also believe there should be no sex offender registry whatsoever, but I would not defend this in an argument.)

Because the laws are too strict, there are too many cases where people are technically breaking the law, but no one cares to enforce the law.  This gives the opportunity for prejudicial selective enforcement, which is what happened to Kaitlyn Hunt.  The parents of the 14-year-old allegedly blame her for making their daughter lesbian, and this motivated the charges.

Criminal law and justice issues disproportionately affect minorities because of selective enforcement.  The selective enforcement of laws against black people is so common that it hardly counts as news.  This is why anti-racist activists care a lot about criminal justice reform.  I'm less convinced that there is systematic selective enforcement of statutory rape laws against LGB people, but it's still good that it got the attention of LGBT activists.

(expanded from a post on Tumblr)

1 comment:

Christian said...

I had to laugh when the parents said the older girl made the younger girl lesbian....I would hazard a guess that they were religious and believe being gay is that choice you make so that everyone can criticize you. What fools they are.