When Shakespeare brought Romeo and Juliet to life, he was intentional in choosing two young characters as his protagonists.

Then as now, two teens having consensual sex is understandable. The difference between the two situations would seem obvious. S., legally speaking, there’s little distinction between Romeo and Juliet's mutual decision and the abusive actions of a child molester.

texas statue age dating laws-64

The new laws, named “Romeo and Juliet laws” after Shakespeare’s tragic teenage lovers, attempt to correct overly harsh penalties and prison terms meted out over the years.

In 2007, these laws went into effect in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, and Texas.

A 2004 case heard by the Kansas Supreme Court had civil libertarians and gay rights groups protesting the existence of a double standard.

Matthew Limon was a mentally disabled 17-year-old when he had consensual sex with a 14-year-old boy.

For older versions of Texas statutes, you might try our Historical Texas Statutes collection, which includes digitized copies of Texas statutes starting from 1879.

The Legislative Reference Library also makes available the 1856 editions of the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Romeo and Juliet laws are frequently enforced unfairly says Mark Chaffin, a researcher with the University of Oklahoma-based National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth.

"In many cases, they are enforced largely by how angry the parents of the younger party are."One well-publicized case demonstrating the need for Romeo and Juliet legislation is that of Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year-old who was imprisoned for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old female.

He was then legally compelled to register as a sex offender.

Florida’s new law still regards underage sex as a crime, but a judge may now determine whether to strike the sex offender designation from those previously convicted.

And we also have a research guide that describes the various sources of Texas historical statutes and constitutions.