CA law defines unlawful sexual intercourse as occurring when the female is not the wife of the perpetrator and under the age of 18.
CA Supreme Court held law unconstitutional.
SCOTUS reversed, law constitutional.
Does a statutory rape statute that only punished males violate equal protection?
A statutory rape statute that only punishes males does not violate equal protection.
The justification offered by the state is that the statute is intended to prevent illegitimate teenage pregnancies.
The state does have a strong interest in preventing such pregnancies; there are significant social, medial, and economic consequences, and many of these are likely to fall on the state.
Only women may become pregnant, and they suffer disproportionately the consequences of pregnancy.
Thus, the legislature was within its authority when it elected to punish only the participant who suffers few of the consequences of his conduct.
The risk of pregnancy itself constitutes a substantial deterrence to young females; no similar natural sanctions deter males.
A criminal sanction imposed solely on males thus serves to roughly equalize the deterrents on the sexes.
A gender neutral statute might not be as effective.
A female is surely less likely to report violations of the statute if she would be subject to criminal prosecution as well.
CA has the burden of proving that there are fewer teenage pregnancies under its gender-based law than there would be if the law were gender neutral.
Other states have gender-neutral statutory rape laws and seem to get along fine.
A gender-neutral law would be a potentially greater deterrent of sexual activity than this gender-based law.
Simply, a gender neutral law deters twice as many potential violators.
The fact that a class of persons is especially vulnerable t a risk that a statute is designed to avoid is a reason for making the statute applicable to that class.
The fact that a female confronts a greater risk of harm than a male is a reason for applying the prohibition to her, not a reason for granter her a license to use her own judgment on whether or not to assume the risks.
A rule that authorizes punishment of only one of two equally guilty wrongdoers violates the essence of equal protection.
Possible gender stereotype (male as aggressors) rejected by Court, found constitutional.