A 14-year-old Texas boy faces being labelled as a sex offender for life after having sex with his 12-year-old girlfriend. The unidentified teenager was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child in Harris County.
"He had consensual sex with his little girlfriend and he loved her. They were boyfriend-girlfriend," the boy's mother told the Houston Chronicle. "And because he turned 14, they want to make him a sex offender, put him on the registry with paedophiles and child molesters—really sick and dangerous people."
The teenager was in seventh grade, while his girlfriend was in sixth grade at the time.
According to the Chronicle, the "Romeo and Juliet" rule gives juveniles a defence to have consensual sex with someone within three years of their age. The law would allow a 17-year-old to legally have sex with a 14-year-old. However, the law does not apply in Texas if one of the teens is under 14.
"The idea that a 14-year-old who has sex with a person just a little bit younger than him or her would be treated as the worst of the worst in our society and placed on the sex offender registry is really sick," the boy's attorney, Joseph Gutheinz, said.
The teenager's lawyer noted that his client would not be facing charges or the possibility of registering as a sex offender if the young couple had been the same age. Gutheinz also noted that if the other party had been 18 or older, his client would be seen as the victim.
"It defeats the whole purpose of the Romeo and Juliet defence where you have two people relatively close in age and maturity," he said. "You would think the law would be more sympathetic as you go younger, because both parties are immature."
The boy's mother told the Chronicle that the case is putting the family "through hell". "Because he was 14 by two months, they want to ruin his life," she said. "What kind of life is he going to have if he's a sex offender?"