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GLAA follows up on Omnibus Public Safety Act
GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
August 23, 2005
Chairman Phil Mendelson
Committee on the Judiciary
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20004
Please accept this letter as additional testimony on bill 16-247, the "Omnibus Public Safety Act of 2005."
At the hearing on June 30, 2005, Mr. Richard Bartel testified that Title X of the bill titled "Sexual Abuse," would raise the age of consent from 16 to 18. We agree with Mr. Bartel that such a change would be bad for a variety of reasons, but we don't believe that the legislation actually creates that problem. I believe that ANC Commissioner Robert Brannum raised a similar concern.
After our initial reading of the bill, we came to the same conclusion as Mr. Bartel. However, in closely examining the related text of the existing law, which is not included in the bill itself, we concluded that there is not a problem with the age of consent, largely because this section does not deal with consensual sex, but also because of other definitions in the law.
Sec. 1002 of the bill adds a new definition to the law:
"(5a) "Minor" means a person who has not yet attained the age of 18 years or a person attending high school or its equivalent who has not yet attained the age of 19 years."
The law, in D.C. Code §22-3001 has a separate definition of child.
(3) "Child" means a person who has not yet attained the age of 16 years.
This helps create a structure by which to distinguish between those under the age of consent, "child", and those above the age of consent, but not a legal adult, "minor."
The new additions to the Anti-Sexual Abuse Act of 1994, deal with the abuse of custodial or authority powers over minors. This is in addition to the sections on the sexual abuse of children. The new sections 208a "First degree sexual abuse of a minor" and 208b "Second degree sexual abuse of a minor" apply to people "being 18 years of age or older, is in a significant relationship with a minor…"
Significant relationship means a person in an authority position. This is defined in the law:
(10) "Significant relationship" includes:
(A) A parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or grandparent, whether related by blood, marriage, or adoption;
(B) A legal or de facto guardian or any person, more than 4 years older than the victim, who resides intermittently or permanently in the same dwelling as the victim;
(C) The person or the spouse or paramour of the person who is charged with any duty or responsibility for the health, welfare, or supervision of the victim at the time of the act; and
(D) A teacher, scout master, coach, recreation center leader, or others in similar positions.
The bill also adds members of the clergy to 10(D).
These sections do not prohibit a minor from consenting to a sexual relationship, including marriage, to an adult. They prohibit the abuse of power of people in authority positions.
We agree with the Mayor that these are relationships which are fundamentally not consensual, and which should not be abused.
Please review the bill and the existing law, and share our analysis with Mr. Bartel and Commissioner Brannum. While we do not believe that the bill causes a change to the age of consent, we would not want that result in the event that we are mistaken about the implications of the legislation.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
cc: Judiciary Committee Members
Commissioner Robert Brannum
Mr. Richard Bartel