Kaitlyn Hunt, the 18-year old in legal trouble for her relationship with a 14-year-old girl, refused a plea deal that would have labeled her a sex offender and put her under house arrest for two years. Instead, she and her family will take their case to court.
The parents of Hunt’s girlfriend disapproved of their relationship, which began when Hunt was 17, and sent police to her home on her 18th birthday to arrest her. Her parents requested that the state of Florida reduce her felony charges to a misdemeanor because the relationship is consensual, but the state refused.
Hunt’s lawyer Julia Graves explained the decision to go to court in a statement: “This is a situation of two teenagers who happen to be of the same sex involved in a relationship. If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be no media attention to this case … If this incident occurred 108 days earlier when she was 17, we wouldn’t even be here.”
The case has generated considerable public attention, with many advocates arguing that anti-gay bias is fueling the charges. On Friday, Slate’s Emily Bazelon acknowledged why the parents of a 14-year-old would be wary of an 18-year-old partner while also recognizing the apparent role of homophobia in the case. She went on to note how Hunt’s ordeal raises additional legal and ethical questions about defining consent between high school students and the selective enforcement of statutory rape statutes more broadly.
The sad thing here is that she might not have a very strong case, depending on how lawyers interpret Florida’s age-of-consent laws. What is true, however, is that Kaitlyn was unfairly targeted because she’s in a relationship with another girl. Though the charges could be similar or identical if we were talking about a boy and a girl, the media attention around this supposed “scandal” would absolutely not be the same. I’m so sorry for the hell she must be going through.