BY MARK SCHUMANN
Last weekend someone forwarded to me Steven Hunt’s impassioned online plea seeking support for his 18-year old-daughter, Kaitlyn. The Sebastian River High School senior is charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery for allegedly having sexual relations with her 14-year-old girlfriend.
The person who forwarded Hunt’s social media post predicted the case would become a big story, and of course it has, with Hunt and her attorney, Julia Graves, appearing on NBC’s Today show. The story also attracted the attention of CNN and The New York Times, among other national media.
An online petition supporting Hunt has drawn more than 250,000 signatures. TCPalm.com posted 29 photographs taken at a press conference held by Hunt and her attorney. In this instance, the media hasn’t so much covered the circus, as it has become a part of it, with more than a few reporters and pundits acting as clowns.
Witnessing the media’s feeding frenzy this past week, I am more convinced than ever that when it comes to reporting on complicated stories, the media is failing the American public.
The first thing to be said is that none of the more than 250,000 people who signed the online petition can reasonably assume they know all the relevant facts, nor have they necessarily comprehended the broader legal implications of their position. Rather, they, along with many in the media, have chosen to see Hunt’s case as one of discrimination against homosexuality.
A local minister weighed in with a guest column warning against the “evils” of homosexuality. The pontificating preacher’s mini-sermon did little to deepen the discussion. Rather, the pastor’s moralizing only served to draw attention away from the legal issue of an adult having sex with a minor – regardless of their sexual orientation.
Excuse me for putting it bluntly, but consider this question. Who honestly believes 250,000 signatures could have been gathered in support of an 18-year-old minority male in Hunt’s predicament?
What I find ironic about this story is that gay and lesbian rights activists are arguing that homosexual orientation, rather than being treated equally under the law, should be exempted from laws prohibiting persons of legal age from having sex with minors.
Either all are be treated equally in the eyes of the law, regardless of sexual orientation, or we are not. It is simply not possible to have it both ways. Pointing this out does not make me anti-gay. I support marriage rights for same-sex couples, just as I believe in every other way all persons should be treated equally under the law, regardless of sexual orientation.
That is what I believe. What I know is this: With the exception of Hunt, her girlfriend, their parents, and a handful of law enforcement officers and attorneys involved in the case, we don’t even know what we don’t know about the relevant facts.
Now that Hunt has rejected the State Attorney’s offer for a plea bargain, her case will presumably be heard before a jury, possibly as early as July. Only then will pundits and the public have the facts with which to make an informed judgment.