Single parents, sex offenders can't legally live together

2008-11-15T00:00:00Z Single parents, sex offenders can't legally live togetherThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 15, 2008 12:00 am  • 

To view the Iowa Supreme Court's complete ruling, click here.

DES MOINES  — The Iowa Supreme Court in a split opinion Friday upheld a law that bars single parents from living with their children with convicted sex offenders.

The case involves a Coralville woman who was found guilty of child endangerment and sentenced to one year of probation. The woman, Holly Mitchell, lived with a convicted sex offender and let her children stay with the man while she was at work.

Mitchell’s mother and sister also stayed with her two children, so they were not alone with her boyfriend, records show.

Mitchell appealed her conviction, claiming the state’s law is unconstitutional because it treats people who are not married and living with a sex offender differently than people who are married and living with a sex offender.

The Iowa law was amended in 2005 to include living with a sex offender.

Mitchell claimed the law violates the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Iowa constitutions. She claimed there is no rational reason to treat people who aren’t married and living with a sex offender differently than those who are married.

In her appeal, Mitchell argued that her equal protection rights were violated because the Iowa Legislature decided to distinguish between married and unmarried people, subjecting only unmarried people to criminal charges for engaging in the same behavior as married people.

She didn’t argue against the need to protect children, only that there is no rational reason to differentiate between married and unmarried people.

The Supreme Court rejected Mitchell’s equal protection argument, saying that sex offenders who are married to a parent have “greater financial obligations and other obligations toward the family, so that the sex offender feels he or she has a stake in the well-being of the children.”

Justices Daryl Hecht and David Wiggins dissented.

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