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High school girls in Florida can apparently be arrested for dating one another, as 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt was slapped with sex offense charges for being in a relationship with her 15-year-old high school girlfriend.
The two girls were on the school's basketball team together, and at the insistence of coaches and parents, Hunt was kicked off the team and then expelled from her school, CBS News reports.
Does Florida criminalize high school consensual relationships?
Facing Sex Offense Charges
According to TCPalm.com, on Hunt was arrested in February on charges of lewd and lascivious battery.
Under Florida law, engaging in sexual activity with a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 is a felony. Because the law does not make an exception for consenting minors, Hunt could potentially face up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted, and up to $10,000 in fines.
Hunt's mother, Kelly Hunt-Smith, can't believe that the other girl's parents did not simply come talk to her, instead of trying to get Hunt labeled as a sex offender, reports Examiner.com.
To prevent parents from using sex offense laws as a legal cudgel to destroy a disapproved child's relationship, some states, including Florida, have passed so-called "Romeo and Juliet" laws, lessening penalties for consenting minors within a certain age of each other.
Florida's 'Romeo and Juliet' Law
Although the name seems to imply a male-female relationship, most "Romeo and Juliet" laws are not gender-specific. In Florida, the law protects consenting minors who are within four years of age, as long as the younger partner was at least 14 years old.
But even though Hunt's age is within four years of her girlfriend's, Florida's "Romeo and Juliet" law only allows her to petition to remove her name from the sex offender registry if she's convicted. The law does not prevent the felony punishment from being imposed.
And although Hunt has already been arrested and expelled from her high school, even if she accepts a plea bargain, she would be spending the next two years under house arrest, according to Examiner.com.
Those outraged by Kaitlyn Hunt's treatment by the Indian River County State Attorney's Office have created a petition to "Free Kate". The petition at Change.org already generated more than 140,000 signatures.