Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old high school senior was expelled from school and charged with a felony as a result of her same-sex relationship with a 15-year-old. The relationship is consensual and the charges came from the younger student’s parents. Kaitlyn’s mother believes that the charges were fueled by LGBT hate and that the parents only pressed the charges because Kaitlyn is a woman. More specifically she has been charged with “sexual battery on a person 12-16 years old.” Kaitlyn has been offered a plea deal that requires her to plead guilty to child abuse and spend two years on house arrest with a one-year probation.
Kaitlyn however, has rejected the plea deal and is set to start the trial on June 20th. If she is convicted, she could spend the next 15 years of her life behind bars. Kaitlyn’s lawyer has released a statement with the announcement of the rejection saying, “This is a situation of two teenagers who happen to be of the same sex involved in a relationship. If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be no media attention.”
While I agree with Kaitlyn’s attorney that there would be no attention to this case if it were a heterosexual couple, I do not think that has anything to do with her innocence. The fact that this statement was released when Kaitlyn rejected the plea deal could reflect that her lawyer is offering this as some type of defense for Kaitlyn.
The issue at stake here is not anything relating to LGBTQ issues. Rather, it has to do with the age of consent and child abuse laws. It may be true that this case would have never come to fruition if the parent’s of the younger daughter had not been upset by the relationship. It may even be true that they only pressed charges because they believe Kaitlyn has influenced their daughter’s homosexuality. But the fact of the matter is that no charges will be pressed based on the fact that the relationship is between two women. The whole case surrounds their age and the consent laws in Florida.
There is no way to argue that Kaitlyn hasn’t broken Florida’s age of consent law, as it is 16 years old. Kaitlyn is 18 and in a relationship with a 14-year-old. If the relationship is consensual then the 14-year-old partner should present this information on Kaitlyn’s behalf. I would say the same if the partners were two men, heterosexual, two women, queer, or any identity in between. The fact that the case surrounds two women is irrelevant. This case is about consent and that is all that should be argued in the courtroom. This is not the first time one partner has turned 18 throughout the course of a relationship and then turned around and found themselves faced with criminal charges. Consent is something law has always struggled to define. I hope consent will be more clearly defined in the future so as to punish those that are truly guilty and leave those that are innocent alone.