Here's a weird wrinkle in Georgia's sex offender law that I discovered while researching this week's column: In addition to people who engaged in oral sex ("sodomy") as teenagers, the list of offenders who are required to register includes people who commit "incest" as teenagers or adults. Section 16-6-22 of the Georgia code defines incest this way (emphasis added):
A person commits the offense of incest when the person engages in sexual intercourse with a person to whom he or she knows he or she is related either by blood or by marriage as follows:
(1) Father and daughter or stepdaughter;
(2) Mother and son or stepson;
(3) Brother and sister of the whole blood or of the half blood;
(4) Grandparent and grandchild;
(5) Aunt and nephew; or
(6) Uncle and niece.
This definition covers not only parents' sexual abuse of their children but consensual sex between relatives. One of the plaintiffs in the federal suit challenging Georgia's sex offender restrictions, for example, was accused of having sex with his sister when he was 13. Such behavior is certainly troubling, but it does not indicate that he's a child molester. In fact, the incest definition extends to sex between grown siblings as well as sex between people who are not even related by blood, such as a woman and her aunt's husband. Yet the minimum punishment is 10 years in prison, followed by registration as a sex offender, with all the restrictions that entails, for at least 10 years more.