Hunt’s parents and numerous online supporters claim that she was singled out for special punishment because of the gay aspect of the relationship.
“For my daughter’s sexual preferences, she’s getting two felony charges,” said Steve Hunt, Kaitlyn’s father, in an interview with The Associated Press. “It could possibly ruin her future.”
A sympathetic Huffington Post article also led with the headline “Kaitlyn Hunt, Florida Teen, Faces Felony Charges Over Same-Sex Relationship.”
Some supporters initially created online petitions on Change.org and Daily Kos.The Change.org petition asks state attorneys to “stop the prosecution of an 18 year old girl in a same-sex relationship.”
The Daily Kos rescinded its petition after the publication of the arrest record revealed that the gap between the girls was wider than originally reported. Early reports said the girls were only two years apart.
The Smiths, the sheriff, and the state attorney maintain that the case is about underage sex, not same-sex relationships.
“If this was an 18-year-old male and that was a 14-year-old girl, it would have been prosecuted the same way,” said Deryl Loar, Indian River County Sheriff, in a statement.
But Hunt’s supporters say the law is farcical, since it bans sex between 14-year-olds and 18-year-olds, but permits it between 16-year-olds and 23-year-olds.
Thad Altman, a Republican state senator who represents Sebastian, Florida, said the law should be altered so people like Hunt don’t face criminal charges.
“There are just better ways of dealing with this issue than through our courts and criminal justice system,” said Altman in a statement. “They’re using the same system designed to go after murderers, rapists and child abductors. That’s just flat out wrong. And it’s hurting these kids.”
Atlman plans to sponsor legislation that would grant leniency to teenagers like Hunt, who were less than four years older than their purported victims.
In the meantime, Hunt’s first hearing is scheduled for June 20.
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