AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – A ‘Romeo & Juliet’ bill, that would keep teenagers convicted of statutory rape from being put on the Sex Offender Registry, is waiting for Governor Perry’s signature.
As it stands, a person between the ages of 18 and 20 who has consensual sex with a girl or boy under the age of 17 could be convicted of sexual assault of a minor and required to register as a sex offender.
The bill on Perry’s desk is designed to spare young adults from being branded lifetime sex offenders.
Advocate Mary Sue Molnar says the possible change is long overdue.
“So we’re looking at a lifetime label of ‘sex offender’ for someone who is doing what people have done throughout the ages,” she said. “I mean we’re talking about the Romeo & Juliet type of offenders.”
Molnar’s son is one of the people convicted of statutory rape. At the time of the offense he was a young adult and his girlfriend was a teenager. He is now on the sex offender’s list.
Molnar says often both the victim and the teen’s parents are against the harsh punishment. “There’s so many cases where even the parents of the girl, or the parents of the victim, say ‘Hey, wait a minute. We don’t want this guy arrested. We don’t want him a sex offender for life.’”
Two North Texas lawmakers, State Senator Royce West and Representative Todd Smith, filed the bill.
In the state of Texas some 100 people are added to the sex offender registry every week.
Governor Perry vetoed a similar bill in 2009.