ONE MORE TIME -- for the benefit of anyone who may have been unduly alarmed by exaggerated descriptions of what Washington's lawmakers have been trying to do to the laws governing adolescent sex and rape -- here's where things stand: the District council has acted calmly and constructively to improve protections for sex-abuse victims, be they children or adults. Neither originally nor at its latest meeting did the council ever consider any move that would have encouraged or otherwise sanctioned behavior that could be deemed immoral. On the contrary, the idea has been to put laws on the books that would be both realistic and -- here's the point -- more enforceable.
Given the compounded misunderstandings, and overractions that have clouded rational consideration of these laws, the council made as many improvements as it could during a session marked by intemperate outbursts from the audience. One improvement was delayed until it can enjoy better understanding: changes in the provisions covering sex between children, which, among other things, do not properly protect boys as well as they do girls who are under 16 years old.
Once the misguided furor has had time to subside, the council should proceed with these important protections. Toward that end, member Betty Ann Kane has introduced a bill that would apply the statutory rape laws equally to males and females but would retain at 16 the age under which sexual acts are presumed unlawful because of the age of at least one participant. In the meantime, member David A. Clarke deserves great credit for his work in revising and strengthening all the provisions that were enacted -- and for continuing to press for their approval throughout all the unfortunate and unnecessary fuss.