22-year old Matthew Koso of Nebraska fell in love with a girl of twelve who was enrolled in the same special education program as he. One thing led to another and the couple wound up in bed together. Eventually, this union resulted in the girl becoming pregnant when she was thirteen. The girl’s mother, knowing that it was possible for the pair to get married legally in neighboring Kansas as long as she consented, gave Koso permission to take the girl and marry her in Hiawatha, just across the border.
Unfortunately, however, the story does not end here. Despite the fact that the relationship appears to have been sanctioned by the girl’s family and despite the fact that both families amicably found a responsible solution (a more responsible solution would have been pregnancy prevention, in my opinion) to her pregnancy, Matthew Koso now faces up to fifty years in prison for first degree sexual assault. In spite of the families’ wishes to let the young pair embark on a life together, the attorney general of Nebraska, Jon Bruning, has decided to prosecute Koso. Even more sinister is his reason. He does not want to prosecute because he thinks the unnamed Mrs. Koso was harmed by the situation. He wants to prosecute because he thinks the Kansas law that allowed her to be married so young is “ridiculous” and that the decision of her family to allow her to marry a “pedophile” is “repugnant”. In other words, he is prosecuting because his moral sensibilities have been bruised. The state of Kansas has also entered into the moralstic fray. Its legislature, as a result of the case, is considering changing the state’s marriage laws to prevent any similar cases from occurring in the future.
Just what is it that Bruning believes that he is going to achieve with this prosecution? Does he think he will ingratiate himself to the now fourteen-year old ‘victim’ by throwing her husband and the father of her soon-to-be-born baby into prison? Does he think that making her a single mother will be beneficial for her and her baby? Does he think that as attorney general he has a right to impose his morality upon others?
Whatever his thoughts and motives, it will be a tragedy if his moral vendetta is allowed to succeed. If the letter of the law is allowed to take precedence to the common sense and responsibility of the common citizen, it will be yet one more nail in the coffin of civil liberties as we have grown to know them. If a zealous politician is allowed to apply the law for his own moral edification, then our ‘liberal democracy’ will be no better than certain countries in the Middle East that allow moralist thugs to beat women who expose too much of themselves or appear publicly in the company of unrelated males.
In addition, it should be pointed out that Koso, whatever anyone may think of what he did, is not a pedophile. According to the definition of pedophilia provided in the APA’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-IV TR, a pedophile is somebody who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children. By the fact that she is pregnant, we can safely conclude that Mrs. Koso is not pre-pubescent. So perhaps Mr. Koso has grounds for a slander or defamation suit against Mr. Bruning.
It is most unsettling that the United States of America, for so many years a champion of individualism and personal responsibility, has become such an intolerant and moralistic society, a nation where any deviation from the norm is grounds for branding, ostracism and persecution and where the government decides for citizens what is moral and acceptable. It is truly sad that the land that has produced such personalities as Edgar Allen Poe, Charlie Chaplin and Jerry Lee Lewis now roundly rejects them for one trait they all had in common: an appreciation of young adolescent beauty.