Lawmakers in Utah were in a bind Thursday regarding a bill proposing to alter charges for those who violate the age of consent to sex among minors. During the hearing at the Utah House Law Enforcement Committee, the government leaders deliberated on the issue but decided to put this on hold as the problems arose. Should the consent age be lowered to 12-years-old?
Utah HB 123 was proposed by Rep. Marc K. Roberts, a Republican from Santaquin. He would like charges against Class B misdemeanor or felony to consider the age youth involved in the offense.
State laws indicate that no one under the age of 14 "can legally consent to sex" in Utah, according to Legal Match. If an 18-year-old boy were to engage with sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, albeit consensually because they are in love, he can still be charged with statutory rape.
When a boy is charged with rape, he can be labeled as a sex offender. "The label of 'child rapist' can stay with that kid for the rest of their life," Jennifer Valencia of the Utah Sentencing Commission said, per The Salt Lake Tribune.
Being listed on the sex offender registry could affect a young man's chances of getting into college, landing a job or living in a good neighborhood. Studies, however, have shown that at least half of teenagers between the ages of 15 to 19 are actively engaging in consensual sex and have no idea they are committing a first-degree felony under the law.
Such was the case of a 17-year-old boy who had sexual relations with his girlfriend, who was under 14. The girl's father filed a complaint against the boy. "It doesn't make sense to say we are criminalizing sex between peers at a young age," Utah lawyer Pam Vickery.
The deliberation at the House stalled when the lawmakers couldn't agree that lowering the age of consent among minors to 12-years-old will help do away with charging young boys as rapists. Some said that it would be better to improve sex education and abstinence among the kids.
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