2019 Bills

HB 287: Criminalizing Consensual Sexual Activity

This bill passed the House and Senate. 

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and should be opposed.

Representative Ken Ivory is attempting to add dramatic additions to what legally qualifies as non-consensual sex by sponsoring House Bill 287. Under the bill, when a university student over the age of 18 engages in consensual sexual acts with a professor, teaching assistant, or person in “a position of special trust,” that act would be considered non-consensual and thus illegal.

The intent of the bill is to prevent people in positions of power from wrongfully using their leverage to receive sexual favors in return for educational opportunities, such as good grades. However morally or ethically wrong those cases may be, it is not okay to criminalize acts between two consenting adults and claim consent did not exist. Institutions of higher education must take it upon themselves to create and enforce standards and consequences to ensure a safe learning and work environment for their students and staff.

There are plenty of circumstances where relationships between students and “instructors” or “teaching assistants”—who are specifically named in the bill—could be perfectly acceptable. Many masters students, for example, are tasked with teaching introductory classes in their field of study. That 22-year-old instructor may very well have begun dating another student before they even started teaching their class. They should not be in fear of getting criminally charged for having a relationship under those circumstances. Colleges may prohibit this, but the law should not.

The bill provides a very broad definition of what qualifies as non-consensual sex, which opens the door for wrongful application of the law. This is especially concerning when considering breakups in relationships, and how revenge could lead to an individual using this law to criminalize their former partner after an emotional breakup. For these reasons, we strongly oppose this bill.