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Kansas Legislators Debate Lowering Consensual Sex Age For Some T - KOAM TV 7

Kansas Legislators Debate Lowering Consensual Sex Age For Some Teens

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CRAWFORD COUNTY, KANSAS -

A possible change to the legal age of consensual sex in Kansas ignites debate.  A legislative bill was introduced by a state representative who believes current state laws are too strict for teens who engage in consensual sex.

Right now, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to have sex in Kansas.  

Kansas State Representative Boog Highberger of Lawrence, who proposed this legislation, believes consensual sex and sexual acts between minors could be better handled by parents, teachers, and counselors compared to the juvenile justice system.

 "There are some benefits to this, there's no question," says Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso.

Gayoso's official stance on House Bill 2738 is letting Kansas state legislators work through the pros and cons.

"The majority of the time, hopefully parents know better than the state in how to discipline or handle a situation that the courts typically don't necessarily need to be involved in," says Gayoso.

Gayoso says he comes across many cases of teenagers under the age of 16 having consensual sex, and several are handled in court.

In general, the bill being debated proposes legalizing consensual sex between young teens and lessening the penalties of consensual sex between older teens.  For example, consensual sex between an 11-year-old and 14-year-old would be allowed, and an 18-year-old who had consensual sex with a 14-year-old wouldn't have to spend time in jail.

"Where an individual may be looking at going to the youth correctional facility, the likelihood under this new bill is that they would be receiving probation," says Gayoso.

"I think it's difficult for teenagers to put an age limit at something," says Karolyn Schrage with Life Choices in Joplin.  "So if they see there's a law that's lifted the lid, or giving a license, will they take that to the extreme that are really detrimental to them."

Schrage worries that Kansas lowering its consensual age of sex for some teens will increase unplanned pregnancies, STD's, and emotional stress.

Schrage says, "Are we setting up younger aged kids to say, this is fine?"

"I think the legislature recognizes we have children in a stage of life where there may be sexual experimentation," says Gayoso.

Gayoso agrees, though, that state legislators need to be responsible and not encourage more sexual experimentation.

The proposal has been referred to the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.  The Kansas County and District Attorney Association has taken a neutral stance on this bill.

Below is a statement from the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence: 

"Our understanding of what the legislature is trying to do with this Bill is to acknowledge that youth and teens have sexually intimate relationships with each other, whether adults approve or not.  KCSDV believes the law would be improved if youth received better information about sexuality and fewer criminal sanctions for engaging in consensual intimate relationships."

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