Age of Consent by State
What Is Age of Consent?
Every state has laws which dictate at what age a person can legally consent to sex, called “age of consent” laws. If a person has sex with someone who is below the age of consent, they are guilty of “statutory rape.” Essentially, they have had sex with someone who, according to the law, could not possibly consent to the act. Because rape is sex without consent, they are guilty of a form of rape.
Age of Consent Differences Between Males and Females
In many states, the age of consent for males and females is different. In some states, there is an exception to the age of consent law if the two partners are close to the same age (usually a 2 or 3 year difference), and in most of those states, punishments are harsher if one of the partners is significantly older than the other. Note, though, that if both partners are above the age of consent, any age difference between them is irrelevant.
Also, some states distinguish between sex between a male and a female, and sex between 2 males or 2 females. In many states, until very recently, any type of homosexual sex was illegal, regardless of age. In others, the age of consent for such acts is higher, but it is not altogether illegal.
Age of Consent for Homosexual Conduct
Recently, the United States Supreme Court found that laws which prohibit consensual, private sexual conduct (including homosexual conduct) between adults are unconstitutional, and cannot be enforced by any state. However, some states still have those laws on the books. Therefore, it is unclear exactly what the age of consent for such acts is in those states.
It is probable that a state court, assuming that it did not try to enforce an unconstitutional law, would simply default to the state’s age of consent for heterosexual intercourse, but this is not a sure thing.
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Last Modified: 12-05-2013 12:43 PM PST
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