Statutory rape laws are supposed to protect children from sexual predators. But prosecutors sometimes use these age-of-consent laws to bust teenagers who are just several years apart, and in consensual relationships. Some parents say they are interpreting the law too literally.
The latest case that's been making headlines involves a young lesbian couple in Florida. Kaitlyn Hunt turned 18 in September and began dating a 15-year-old girl. Hunt's mother told WPTV that the relationship was consensual.
But technically, the age-of-consent in Florida is 18. So the other girl's parents called the police, who then arrested Kaitlyn on charges of "lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years old."
More from GlobalPost: Ohio city's website to update community on rape case
In a Facebook post, Kaitlyn's mother says that the relationship was completely consensual, and that the other girl's parents never brought up any concerns directly with her. "They are out to destroy my daughter, because they feel like she ‘made’ their daughter gay," the mother wrote.
A Change.org petition supporting Kaitlyn currently has over 59,000 signatures.
It's not just gay teens who complain about subjective enforcement of age-of-consent laws. In particularly controversial cases, minors who have "sexted" naked pictures of themselves to other minors have been charged with distributing child pornography.
"While minors may regard 'sexting' as no big deal, since it is consensual and usually between friends, the law takes a different stance – minors can be arrested under current child pornography laws, and defendants can be sentenced to a minimum of five years in a federal prison," wrote the Brill Legal Group, a firm that represents minors facing such charges.
And the New York Times reported in 2010 that an 18-year-old was convicted of distributing obscene materials to a minor after a 14-year-old female friend asked him for a picture of his penis.