State Senator Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, discusses SSB 3081.

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 5 on Thursday to raise the age of consensual sex from 16 years-of-age to 18 with two exceptions.

SSB 3081 states that anyone who engages in sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor if that person is not their spouse or under the age of 27. 

An aggravated misdemeanor is punishable by confinement for no more than two years and a fine of at least $625 but not more than $6,250.

State Senator Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, introduced the bill and briefly summarized what it does.

State Senator Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, spoke against the bill. 

“You called people who today are legal under the current law and the age of consent. Your terminology that somehow we’re stopping sexual predators. Now they are sexual predators, who today or if this bill should pass, and I sure hope it doesn’t, and signed into law, you’re fine today, and you’re an upstanding citizen. But if this is signed and you fall into this category to the stipulations of the term consent, you’re a predator,” he said.

“We’re talking about 16 or 17-year-olds who would have consensual sex with people who are 27. And it could be a male; it could be a 17-year-old male having consensual sex – may be having consensual sex at 16 with a 26-year-old for a year. But as soon as that guy starts when he hits his birthday, becomes 27, and so at that time, by law, they would have to stop having sex even though they are in love, even though maybe they’re engaged, or they would be a predator and commit an aggravated misdemeanor,” Bisignano argued.

“This is very punitive,” he added, saying parents aren’t going to like the age difference any less when their child turns 18. He also said that it could hurt parents’ relationships with their children if they have the love of their child’s life put in jail and on the sex offender registry. 

Sweeney noted that offenders if this bill becomes law, will not be added to the sex offender registry. 

She argued that the intent is to address sexual offenders who groom children and wait until the age of consent in Iowa. 

“Right now we have a person, right now, in law can groom them, and when they turn 16, they can have a sexual relationship with them. That’s fine, but if they send a pornographic picture to them, it’s against the law. To have sex, it’s ok, but to send a picture, it’s against the law,” Sweeney said.

The vote was along party lines.

State Senators Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, Jake Chapman, R-Adel, Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, Zach Whiting, R-Spirit Lake, and Sweeney voted in favor raising the age.

State Senators Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, Rich Taylor, D-Mt. Pleasant, and Bisignano voted against it.

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