Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

June 18, 2013

‘Free Kate’ campaign misdirected

By Taylor Armerding

— Apparently, it is not enough to tolerate, accept, or even endorse the gay agenda. Now, unless you tolerate and accept criminal behavior committed by gays, you are a hater.

Believe it — that is the very public argument being made in behalf of Florida high school cheerleader Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, who faces criminal charges for having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

I keep hearing gay rights advocates claim they’re in a fight for equality. Apparently, as in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” they want to be more equal than others.

The case has gained national attention since Hunt’s family and other defenders have launched a petition drive demanding that the Florida state attorney drop the case. That campaign includes T-shirts labeled, “Stop the hate, Free Kate.”

They are not saying, of course, that every time a prosecutor files criminal charges for an alleged sex crime that it is an act of hate. No, it is only hateful if the alleged perpetrator is gay.

Hunt’s parents insist that the only reason their daughter is being charged is because she allegedly (although both participants have admitted it) had sex with another female — that the matter would have been ignored if the participants were heterosexual.

This is absurd on more than one level.

First, it is wrong on the facts. As Lisa Bloom, the legal analyst for the “Today” show noted, 90 percent of the cases prosecuted for statutory rape (an adult having sex with a minor) are brought against males where the victim is female.

“Overwhelmingly, it’s heterosexual boys who are prosecuted for this,” she said — perhaps inadvertently missing the fact that in the eyes of the law they are men, not boys.

But, Hunt’s defenders don’t let the facts get in the way of their argument: Because this was a gay encounter, she should get a pass.

What was that about equality?

A disclaimer here: I am among those who believe the sex crime laws as applied to teenagers can lead to some absurd situations. Obviously, it is not illegal for two consenting adults to have sex. But in the U.S., the age of consent ranges from 16 to 18. So, it is quite possible for a 16-year-old high-school junior to be committing statutory rape on his 15-year-old girlfriend, even if they have what she says is consensual sex. In the eyes of the law, she is incapable of giving her consent.

And what if both participants are 15 or younger? Neither can legally consent, while the reality is that most of the time both of them did. So, should both be charged? Should both be brought to trial and, if convicted, have to live as felons and register as sex offenders?

Such encounters are, of course, almost never prosecuted, which seems to make common sense, but it also undermines respect for the law, and allows arguments that if it was OK for a 16-year-old, why not for a 17- or 18-year-old? After all, they’re all in high school.

That argument, if brought by Hunt’s defenders, would at least have a measure of substance. And she does have the opportunity, in court, to make the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” (although in this case it would have to be “Juliet and Juliet”) defense that they were just two teenagers in love (or lust) and neither suffered harm from the encounter.

But, that kind of creeping attempt at justification is corrosive to a credible justice system. And in this case it is weak on its face — the line between 18 and 14 is much brighter than if the two were 16 and 15.

At 18, a young person is legally an adult, who can drive, vote, live, and work independently, sign contracts and serve in the military. A 14-year-old is barely out of middle school, and is barred from all of those.

So, this campaign has dredged out the tried but not so true invocation of “hate.” And that is the other truly absurd element here. Calling someone a hater is not an argument — it is an attempt to avoid an argument. People invoke it when they don’t have a good argument, in hopes of silencing anybody who might have a different point of view, or in this case to demand immunity from a prosecution that they would likely approve if it involved heterosexuals.

It is about time for those claiming to be victims of hate every time somebody disagrees with them, offends them, or applies the law to them, to be silent themselves until they have something more substantive to bring to a debate.

“Hate” is losing its effectiveness because it is so vastly overused, and so selectively applied. This crowd, which loves to attack those holding something other than politically correct views, claim they are just “calling them out,” or “holding them accountable” or “exercising our right to free speech.” If they are attacked, their knee-jerk response is to claim their critics are “haters.”

It’s a bit like “dissent,” which was the “highest form of patriotism” when George W. Bush was president, and now is labeled “seditious” and “extremist” if directed at President Obama.

Enough. Equal treatment means dealing with both privileges and consequences of actions. Nobody hates Kate, including prosecutors who are just doing a job. Hate is not the issue. Invoking it is trying to duck the issue.

— Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net.