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Texas may add similar 'Romeo and Juliet' legal protections for gay teens who have consensual sex

BY JIM VERTUNO, ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUSTIN, Texas -- Parents of gay teens urged Texas lawmakers on Tuesday to give their children the same legal protection as heterosexuals when it comes to prosecuting sex crimes - pleas that helped push a key Senate committee to cast a vote bucking the state's long history of opposing the expansion of gay rights.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted to change Texas' "Romeo and Juliet" law that protects some heterosexual teens from being prosecuted for sex crimes and apply it to gay teens as well.

Texas laws governing crimes of indecency with a child cover sexual contact with minors under the age of 17. The "Romeo and Juliet" provision sets up a legal defense if the couple is older than 14, in a consensual relationship and within three years of each other.

But since 1981, the law only has applied to couples of the opposite sex, a distinction gay rights groups say is discriminatory and wrongly criminalizes homosexuals.

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