Lawmakers debate legal protections for gay teens

Texas lawmakers could soon add legal protections for sexually active gay teens.

Two bills being considered in the Legislature seek to give same sex teen couples the same legal protections heterosexual teens have when it comes to prosecuting sex crimes.

Several parents spoke at the Capitol Tuesday, urging lawmakers to give their gay children equal rights.

Ebie and Steven Hussey's 17-year-old son came out to them when he was 13.

While they don't foresee him ever having to take advantage of what's called the "Romeo and Juliet" legal defense, they testified Tuesday because they want him to be legally protected like any other teen.

"I will throw myself in front of a truck for him and of course I will come here to the State House and say this isn't fair,” Ebie said. “He deserves everything else a teen in Texas gets."

Under Texas law, sexual contact with minors under the age of 17 is a crime of indecency, but a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” defense protects teen couples from prosecution as long as they are in a consensual relationship, both over 14 and within three years of age of each other.

That law also specifically states the protection is only available to couples of the opposite sex.

"What we're trying to do is create equality," Democratic Rep. Mary Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez and Democrat Senator John Whitmire have both authored bills that would change the law to also cover homosexual teens.

No one spoke out against the bill Tuesday, but Jonathan Saenz with Texas Values registered in opposition to it.

"Supporting this bill could be construed as promoting sexual behavior by children whether heterosexual or homosexual," Saenz said in a statement to YNN.

He went on to say his group supports a focus on abstinence.

The Hussey's say they don't advocate for teen sex. They simply want everyone equally protected, so there's no fear of prosecution or being forced to register as a sex offender.

"We don't want any special treatment,” Steven Huessy said. “We just want a level, equal law for everybody and the way it's stated now, it's not."

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