By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - “Members of the law and justice interim committee recognize that teenagers sometimes fall in love.”

That was State Sen. Sue Malek, D-Missoula, on Thursday introducing Senate Bill 26, which would reduce the maximum penalty from 100 years in prison to five years for teens between the ages of 14 and 18 who have consensual sex.

Photo by Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service
Photo by Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

Bill supporter Amber Foster from Glasgow is what she calls a “double victim” of the current law.

In 1996, her now-husband, Russell Delano Foster, who was 19, was convicted and incarcerated for sexual intercourse without consent because of his relationship with Amber, who was 15. Montana’s current age for giving consent is 16.

“It hasn’t done me a lot of justice; it’s placed a lot of guilt on my head,” Foster said Thursday. “I never wanted him charged. I was just as much of an active ingredient in it as he was.”

Senate Bill 26 is one of several bills on rape and sexual assault that lawmakers are considering this session.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.