In a Sunday Op-Ed in the FWST state Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless) gives Perry his due for his veto of HB 3148, Gov. Perry’s veto of “teen lovers” bill was a missed opportunity to help Texas youth.
Gov. Rick Perry vetoed one of the most morally compelling bills I have ever filed in the Texas House.
Perry apparently believes that every teenager who has a consensual relationship with someone more than three years, but less than four years younger should be labeled for life as a sex offender.
The purpose of sex offender registration is to protect children from child molesters. The monitoring and supervision of nonthreatening people wastes law enforcement resources and detracts law enforcement from closer scrutiny of the sex offender for whom registration was intended — those who are dangerous to children.
HB 3148 was passed by a vote of 131-12 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. Sixteen witnesses testified in committee in favor of the bill. There was no opposition.
In his veto statement, Perry said that “sex offenders would be eligible to petition a court for an exemption from sex offender registration, regardless of the age of the victim.” That is simply not true.
The bill expressly stated that the victim must be at least 14 years old with the perpetrator less than four years older. He said he feared this bill would not protect young victims, but it only would allow a judge to grant an exemption when it is in the best interest of the victim. Some of these “victims” are now married to the “perpetrators.”
The bill wouldn’t change the criminality of the offense of statutory rape, which is a punishable crime. It only gave certain teens in consensual relationships an opportunity to ask a judge for an exemption from lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Every step was taken to ensure that no dangerous predator would be eligible to petition for exemption. Even if an offender met all the requirements set forth, (i.e., consensual relationship, victim at least 14, less than a four-year age difference) a judge would still have discretion — if circumstances warranted — to keep the offender on the list.
I believe teens involved in these relationships have committed a sin, but I don’t believe — in most cases — that that sin should put them on a list that will literally ruin the rest of their lives.
Perry has made it clear he wishes to protect the youth of Texas. He has missed a golden opportunity to do so. I will continue to fight for this important legislation that, simply put, delivers people who are of no threat to anyone from a living hell.
It’s hard not to agree with the conclusion that Perry didn’t know what the bill was about.
Perry said in his veto statement that he couldn’t sign the bill because “sex offenders would be eligible to petition a court for an exemption from sex offender registration, regardless of the age of the victim.” However, Smith’s bill only applied to cases where an offender was convicted of having consensual sex with someone who was at least 14 and not more than four years younger than the defendant.
“Perry apparently believes that every teenager who has a consensual relationship with someone more than three years, but less than four years younger should be labeled for life as a sex offender,” Smith wrote.
You can read EOW’s previous reporting on this bill, (A good bill passed the house yesterday and Perry’s vetoes and HB 3148). Rep. Smith deserves much credit for getting the bill passed and keeping the issue alive. For those living with this unwarranted punishment relief cannot come soon enough.