Tuesday, February 06, 2007

S. 127 Age of Consent Debate

The term “age of consent” is the age at which a person can consent to having sexual activity. This age is under debate in the South Carolina General Assembly. The offender is charged with statutory rape if the victim’s age is below the age of consent set by the state even if the actions were consensual.

Last year we passed Jessica’s law. This law increased penalties for child predators, including my amendment calling for capital punishment for a 2nd conviction of child molestation. Unfortunately, a vaguely worded amendment known as the "Romeo clause" was slipped in at the very last minute. We didn't fully realize the impact of the amendment until after Governor Sanford signed the bill into law. The Romeo clause has the effect of reducing the age of consent to 14 years old if both kids are between the ages of 14 and 18. That way, an 18 year old cannot be charged with statutory rape if he engages in consensual sex with a girl as young as 14. Needless to say, I was disappointed that I did not catch it in time as I would have been viciously opposed to this amendment. I am very angry that this provision became law.

I’ve introduced S. 127, which should correct this grave mistake. This bill increases the age of consent back to 17 years of age. However, my bill also recognizes that sometimes our teenagers make serious moral mistakes, yet should not have the criminal charges equal to that of a child predator. Because of this reality, S. 127 has a provision to lessen the charges when the offender and victim are within 2 years of age. Obviously, when to consent is not given at any age, the offender is charged with sexual assault at different defined degrees.

I want to be clear. God’s Word specifically defines sex as a wonderful gift in the covenant of marriage. Any digression from God’s standard is dangerous and we as a society must determine which situations warrant the harshest penalties. Please pray for wisdom as we try our best to find the correct balance. I will welcome any thoughts that you may have on this sensitive yet serious matter.

The State Newspaper agrees:

To view S. 127, click here