Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wake up little sushi

(post title taken from one of my favorite Ann Taintor prints)

So. Let's just get this out of the way: last night I had a very romantic dream about Mo Rocca of "I Love the 80s" and "The Daily Show." So if I am visibly awkward around Italian/Columbian men with hip glasses, please excuse.

At least it's better than that Elvis impersonator dream I had back when I had Chex Mix for dinner that one time.

Moving on.

This morning I read about this charming little story of red state love:

LINCOLN, Neb. — A 22-year-old man who legally married a 14-year-old girl in Kansas after she became pregnant has been criminally charged in Nebraska for having sex with her.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said Matthew Koso of Falls City began a sexual relationship with the girl when she was 13. After she became pregnant, her mother gave permission in May for Koso to take their daughter to Kansas, which allows minors to get married with parental consent.

“The idea … is repugnant to me,” Bruning said.

Koso was charged Monday with first-degree sexual assault, punishable by up to 50 years in prison. He was released on a $7,500 bond. A preliminary hearing is Aug. 17 in Richardson County Court.

“Kansas has this ridiculous state law,” Bruning said. “Of course the marriage is valid … but it doesn’t matter.

“I’m not going to stand by while a grown man … has a relationship with a 13-year-old — now 14-year old — girl.”

Bruning said the girl is seven months pregnant.

She and Koso were married May 3 after getting a marriage license in Hiawatha, Kan., just across the Nebraska border.

Kansas law has no minimum age for marriage, though state judges through case law have set the minimum age at 14 for boys and 12 for girls. Anyone younger than 18 must have consent from a parent or judge.

Nebraska, by comparison, sets the minimum marriage age at 17. In Missouri it is 15, though state statute allows judges to waive the restriction in “unusual conditions.”

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has said it is a priority to investigate and prosecute child predators and statutory sexual assault. But his spokesman, Whitney Watson, said Tuesday there is little Kline can do in the face of the state law.

“It would take legislative action to change the law,” Watson said.

Sen. John Vratil, a Leawood Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it would not be technically difficult to change the law to insert a minimum age.

“If there’s a will to do it, it’s not very difficult to fix,” he said.

The Hiawatha incident may be the nudge the Legislature needed, he said.

Koso’s attorney, Willis Yoesel, said the girl’s mother and Koso’s parents approved of the marriage.

Yoesel said he has written Bruning, saying the prosecution is unwarranted.

“My question to the attorney general’s office was very simple: Why?” he said. “It’s kind of an unfortunate situation.”

He said the couple is “trying to make the best of a bad situation.”

“The families are all united in this effort. I don’t know who is complaining,” Yoesel said. “What their objective is in this, I don’t know. What benefit is there to anybody in the prosecution of this young man?”

A number of things are disturbing about this story. While I can't say that I approve of the 22-year-old sleeping with the 13-year-old, it would seem that the law in Kansas indicates that it wasn't so long ago that such relationships were not all that unusual. And I had plenty of middle-school friends that would come back from weekends with stories of their older boyfriends, so it would seem that such relationships continue to be in existence (or at least were 10 years ago when I was in middle school). So I hesitate to agree with the guy who deems the 22-year-old a pedophile. I have known many a very mature 13-year-old girl, girls who could easily pass for much much older girls, and who are not afraid to use that to their advantage. The fact that the 22-year-old obtained permission from the girl's mother to marry her after she became pregnant already makes him much more responsible than at least one of my middle-school classmate's 20-something boyfriends . . . And honestly, I know people who were married or pregnant well into their twenties who had no idea what they were doing.

What bothers me is the mystery individual who is bringing the charges. Why does this person care so much? Why is he so disgusted by their relationship that he would go to court- and expend funds, time and energy- to try and get the girl out of the marriage? They both should have known better- the 22-year-old should have known better than to get mixed up with a middle schooler and the 13-year-old should have known better than to have unprotected sex with a guy old enough to be out of college. But I don't really think that there is any malice involved here- just a screwy sense of the appropriateness of a relationship. Plus, the couple gerw up in a small town in Nebraska. These things happen.

Seems to me that this case could set somewhat of a dangerous precedent. If a third party can simply decide that your marriage is wrong, or that it doesn't jibe with their moral attitudes, they can take you to court. This could prove to be a very difficult issue in the coming years when legislation involving same-sex marriage will most likely be left to the states. Say you are married and have an open marriage- could your neighbor take you to court to invalidate it? Or if you are vocal about your choice to not have children, and your kid's friend's Sunday School teacher thinks of that as a sinful lifestyle? I realize that the charges in this case are based on actual laws regarding statutory assault and marriageable age, but who is to say whether a marriage is a moral one? If this guy is able to take a case to court based on the fact that the union is "repugnant" to him, despite the fact that the marriage is perfectly legal in at least one state, there is a problem.

Another example of the unnerving conservative tendency to care a little too much about what is going on in other people's bedrooms.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, you found a gem on this one.

    I agree with your sentiments about a sexual relationship between a 13 and 22 year old. I disagree with Bruning’s assessment of a 22 year old male being a grown man. In comparison to a 13 year old girl, yes, but in general no. I was 22 once, in a galaxy far far away, and was far from being a grown man.

    This guy is not a pedophile by any stretch, and he is doing the right thing now, the best thing for both of them really.

    “Another example of the unnerving conservative tendency to care a little too much about what is going on in other people's bedrooms.” Spot on Vestal, what is that about anyway?

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  2. So if I am visibly awkward around Italian/Columbian men with hip glasses, please excuse.

    /me rereconsiders attending Eschacon

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  3. mo rocca is great. and what the hell is wrong with kansas?

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  4. hey, that's my state! (pride? shame? hard to tell...)

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