Update on Genarlow Wilson and Georgia’s laws about sex and young people

And while we’re doing updates, here is one on the Genarlow Wilson injustice I mentioned in “More Harm Than Good“.

The New York Times reported two days ago that a piece of legislation aimed at helping the young man is hung up in the Georgia General Assembly. According to the Times:

Senator Emanuel D. Jones, a Democrat, sponsored the legislation, which would make it possible for judges to reconsider the cases of hundreds of young adults, including Mr. Wilson, who are serving long mandatory minimum sentences in prison for having consensual sex with teenage minors. Mr. Jones said the bill was mysteriously left off the agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

And on Monday, the Senate’s leader, Eric Johnson, publicly denounced the bill and said that although Mr. Wilson, now 20, was serving a harsh sentence, he deserved no leniency.

Remember, Genarlow Wilson was only 17 when he had consensual oral sex with a girl who was 15.

What troubles me most in the Times story is the change of heart apparently experienced by Senate Leader Johnson. Last year he supported legislation that made the kind of sex that Wilson had a misdemeanor instead of a felony, but now he rejects legislation that would allow Wilson’s case to be reconsidered in light of that very important legal change. His spokesperson, curiously, is quoted as explaining his change of heart this way:

“His line of thought is that we’ve already visited this instance once. If we were to go back, there would be hundreds of these cases that could be reopened, and there are victims in all of those cases.”

I think Mr. Johnson is confused about who the victims are. If we’re talking about consensual sex between minors, or between very young adults and minors (the law applies when the age difference is not more than 4 years), then the real victims are those who have been convicted of crimes. And if we want to help the victims, we should be letting judges revisit those cases. That’s what this legislation would allow.

If you live in Georgia, and perhaps even if you don’t, you might check out the Georgia General Assembly web site. If you’re a resident of Georgia write to your senator and your representative and urge them to do what they can to pass this legislation. And even if you aren’t a Georgia resident, consider writing to Senator Jones, telling him about your support for his legislation and encouraging him to fight. Write a letter to Senator Johnson urging him to change his mind.


Filed under activism, News and politics, public discourse, sex, sex and the law, sexuality, sexuality and age

6 responses to “Update on Genarlow Wilson and Georgia’s laws about sex and young people

  1. Of course, the fact that the victim of this harsh sentence happens to be a young Black man having a consensual sexual relationship with a White girl has nothing to do with Mr. Johnson’s sharp change of heart, either. Nope, nothing at all.

    The old Confederacy — and its old racist sex demons — rears its ugly head once again.


  2. Anthony, thanks for your visit and your comment. I’m embarrassed to point out that the (entirely mainstream) news sources I’d read about Wilson identified his race, but not the girl’s, and that I had assumed she was also Black. I suppose we can add internalized assumptions about segregation to the list of outrages!

    For those who want to keep up with this case, and who support Wilson, here is a link t the Wilson Appeal web site:

  3. Max G. Faraday

    Yeah I know about this case and it is really disgusting. It seems that no one wants to talk about the huge elephant in the room, RACE. I recently moved from Georgia and the issue of race still a strong and dividing one. My question is… how can people, how can I affect any change. I am frustrated with a tremendous sense of powerlessness. Thank you for this post and giving this case and this issue more visibility. This black man tips his hat to you.

  4. Max, thanks. That means a lot. One thing you can do, I think, is keep talking. And while that doesn’t solve the entire problem, it does help keep the conversation focused on the Elephant and not on the wallpaper. Talk, alone, is not enough. But without enough talk, we’re unlikely to act, and unable to organize. Or so it seems to me.

  5. Felicia Christian-Weaver

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. How long must we as a country continue to administer justice based on race? I did not know the young lady was white, I wonder if she were black would the out come be the same? This was consensual, what part of that is unclear? This is one case where justice is NOT blind….. What can I do to help this young man? I have a teenage son who happens to be black, and in college and it scares the hell out of me . We must continue to fight for this young man, it’s the right thing to do.

  6. Nicolette R.

    This story was told on an ABC special, I believe the show was Primetime. Anyway I am commenting today to let you know that both Genarlow and the 15-year-old girl were black. I think that it is incredibly lazy of Senator Johnston not to re-address this case. What has become of our society, where we hide issues that should be front-page news? We live in a society that looks to the future without thinking about the consequences of past decisions. If this case were retried they would see that this young man is be persecuted for being young and naive. There were several young men involved in this case, however many were young enough that they did not go to jail. We all know someone that could very easily be in this young man’s shoes. So to help this young man (that I don’t know at all,) I have sent out countless emails that have a small note on how to help a person (no matter what Race they are,). At the bottom of the email is the link to Mr. Wilson’s appeal website. I hope that he and his mother will be reunited soon, and this unjust verdict is overturned soon.