South Carolina lawmakers propose raising age of consent

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January 31, 2007

AIKEN, S.C.---Legislation introduced this morning in the South Carolina State House could change the age of consent for sex from 16 to 18 years old.

Last week Jill Moore, a former cheerleading coach at Ware Shoals High School, resigned after she was arrested and accused of providing alcohol and cigarettes to two cheerleaders, as well as having a sexual relationship with a National Guard member.

She is also accused of setting up a cheerleader with another Guardsman, who says he had sex with the teen.

Since that teen is 16, the Guardsman won't be charged with a sex crime.

Some lawmakers say that needs to change.

There is confusion over how old is old enough to have sex. We asked a few Aiken residents if they knew what it was.

"I think it's 16 or 17, something like that," said Michael Bentley. "I'm not sure."

"I think it's 18," said Mary Jane Barrett.

When asked if he knew what the age was, Norm Voss said simply, "No."

Here's what Michael Bentley does know: "I know I have a daughter. She's 4. Wish it was a little higher."

South Carolina lawmakers are working on that.

News 12 has learned a bill was introduced yesterday morning that, if passed, would raise the age of consent to 18.

One of the co-sponsors is Anne Parks who represents McCormick County.

"Stemming from the incident at Ware Shoals, I just don't think a young lady at 16 is mature enough to make that decision," Parks told us by phone.

While the people we talked to agree with changing the age of consent, here in South Carolina, changing this law might not be so easy.

"Right now, the way the law is written, there's a Romeo clause where teenagers ages 14 and 16 are not prosecuted for having consensual relations," explained Aiken County Sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank.

Under the proposed law, that clause would be eliminated all together, and crimes like Lewd Act with a Minor or Criminal Sexual Conduct that make specific age references would have to be changed too.

"No matter what you say, they are going to do what they want to do," Mary Jane Barrett said.

Lt. Frank agrees that regardless of what the legislature passes, teens are going to do what they want to. He reminds parents that they should teach their children good values that will in turn help them make the right decisions.

Around the country, the age of consent varies from 16 up to 18 years old.

In Georgia it's 16. It's also 16 in other nearby states: North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.

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