Out actor Evan Rachel Wood and author Anne Rice, whose son is gay, added their voices to the growing call to drop charges against a lesbian high school senior in Florida who is facing felony sex offender charges for having a consensual relationship with her girlfriend, a high school freshman. The girls began dating while Kaitlyn Hunt was 17, and her girlfriend was 15. The two students played on the Varsity basketball team together, took some of the same classes, and were social peers, according to Hunt's parents.
But when Hunt's girlfriend's parents, James and Laurie Smith, found out their daughter was dating another girl, they did everything in their power to stop the couple from being together. On the day that Kaitlyn turned 18, the Smith family sent police to her door and had her arrested for "lewd and lascivious conduct against a child aged 12-16." Hunt now faces felony sex abuse charges, and if convicted, would be forced to register as a sex offender, significantly limiting her future possibilities for employment and civic engagement.
Hunt's friends and family launched a Change.org petition asking local authorities to drop the charges against the head cheerleader, which by Tuesday had gathered more than 100,000 signatures. That same day, Hunt's plight was called out by out bisexual actor Evan Rachel Wood, who asked her Twitter followers to sign the petition "to stop a high school girl's future from being ruined by homophobia."
Author Anne Rice, whose novels often feature gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters and whose son is openly gay, penned a diatribe on Facebook about Hunt's situation, calling it an outrage.
"Kailtyn Hunt faces criminal prosecution for her relationship with a younger student of the same gender," wrote Rice. "It's outrageous really that anyone would arrest a girl of 18 for relations with a girl of 15. I've never heard of a boy being arrested in the same situation, ever." After her Facebook commenters lambasted her with numerous stories of barely legal boys who've served time for statuatory rape, even in consensual relationships, Rice backtracked and offered an alternative to the arbitrary age-based age of consent laws, but reaffirmed her belief that the prosecution is based in antigay sentiment.
"Clearly, I can see from many posts there that there are boys who go to jail for situations like this," wrote Rice on her Facebook fan page. "Well, I think it's wrong. I think there should be an age difference law, allowing for consensual relationships between kids three or four years apart in age. This is unfair. It is flat out unfair to criminalize 18 year olds for having relationships with 15 or 16 year olds. And frankly, I do think this girl is being persecuted in this place because she is gay. The whole way this was handled indicates a horror of homosexuality on the part of the younger girl's parents. I think laws that allow this are unfair to all involved."