Friday, January 17, 2014

how bad law happens

Virginia State Sentator Tom Garrett proposed legislation to protect the children.
Garrett recently introduced legislation to amend and re-enact Virginia’s notorious crimes-against-nature statute, which court rulings have rendered a nullity. The bill renews the prohibitions against oral or anal sex with minors or in public, while stipulating that such acts between consenting adults in private do not violate the law.
Garrett wanted to punish adults for having oral or anal sex with minors. I don't know why existing laws that prohibit sex between adults and children don't apply to oral and anal sex; perhaps legislators always do things the hard way in Virginia. 

Protecting the children is a noble objective, except when protecting the children isn't the result.
Virginia law lets 17-year-olds marry. But if those 17-year-olds then had oral sex, under Garrett’s original bill they would be committing felonies.
Legal to marry but illegal to have a kind of sex that would be legal for older married couples or for older unmarried couples. 

Garrett's legislation also doesn't show much clear thinking about penalties. 
Genital sex between an adult and a 17-year-old remains a misdemeanor, but merely to solicit oral sex with a 17-year-old would be a felony.
How does legislation like this come about?
“I tried to draft the simplest bill possible,” Garrett wrote in an email to “I would be open to amendment, and may even amend it myself, to say that any act is only a crime when one participant or solicitor is an adult, and the other a minor. Honestly, the idea of outlawing acts between minors isn’t something I had contemplated...."
Contemplated? If Mr. Garrett had taken the time to contemplate his legislation, he may have noticed the obvious flaws. Instead, his fervor to protect the children kept him from thinking clearly.

A more cynical understanding would say that Mr. Garrett doesn't care about the children so much as he wants to be able to say he passed a law. Any law.

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