A bill to protect 16 and 17-year olds from sexual predators passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. It would be illegal for someone 27 or older to have sex with someone 16 or 17 years old unless they are at the time cohabiting as the other person’s spouse.
Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) railed against the bill, saying perhaps the right thing to do would be hiking the age of consent to 18, though he said it would be weird.
“This is a really unusual bill and I don’t know why we’d breath any life back into it this year, but we have,” he said. “We have an age of consent in this state and I don’t think anyone in this room doesn’t understand the definition of the word consent. When you take a word like consent and now we have built fences around it with caveats, you can’t do this or you can’t do that, I’m really concerned.”
Bisignano said the law would take “fine, upstanding” citizens today and make them sexual predators tomorrow.
“As soon as that guy, when he hits his birthday, becomes 27, by law, they would have to stop having sex,” Bisignano said. “Even though they’re in love. Even though maybe they’re engaged. This is very punitive when you play with the numbers of ages and birthdays and so forth.
“It’s easier for me to accept if we make the age of consent in this state 18. It’d be a little odd, but Iowa, you know, has chosen to be odd in a lot of different areas. Why not change it to 18? Let’s don’t create a category of sexual predator of someone who may be in love with your son or your daughter and has been having sex with them for a long time, but it’s his birthday, and all at once he’s a predator.”
Bisignano asked how many people would have to break up or hide because of the law.
“I’ve never seen a situation like this,” he said. “We’re going to pass a law that’s going to require people that are responsibly in love to break up. There could even be a child involved. And we’re going to make that person a criminal, sex predator, I don’t know what all comes with it.”
He also asked why the age was set at 27 rather than 25 or 30.
“It’s an arbitrary number on an individual situation that’s going to change the course of people’s lives,” he said. “I don’t know why we’re doing this. I can’t even think of a good reason to jump on your side.”
Sen. Annette Sweeney (R-Alden) noted that violating this proposed law would not put anyone on the sex offender registry list.
“We have a situation where people are grooming people, young girls, and when they turn 16, at the age of consent, then the person knows in the state of Iowa, we have right now in law, that person can groom them and when they turn 16 they can have a sexual relationship with them,” Sweeney said. “That’s fine. But if they send a pornographic picture to them, it’s against the law. But to have sex, it’s OK. To send a picture, it’s against the law.”