Alaska House adds measure raising age of consent to 18 to child sex trafficking bill

the Alaska State Capitol
The Alaska State Capitol (Riley Board/KDLL)

The Alaska House of Representatives took a step towards raising the state’s age of consent from 16 to 18 years old on Friday. A bipartisan majority of the House approved the measure as an amendment to a bill that would require shelters and state service providers to screen minors for signs of sexual exploitation.

Rep. Andrew Gray, D-Anchorage, put the proposal forward, saying it would bring Alaska in line with states like Florida and Arizona.

“As our statutes currently stand, if a 40 year old man engages in sex acts with a 15 year old, there’s no question that a crime has occurred,” he said. “If the same act happened and the girl was a few weeks older, suddenly, the onus is on her to prove she didn’t consent.”

The handwritten amendment passed by the House would not, in its current form, change the age of consent in all situations. As written, it would change only the law outlining first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, and only in situations in which the abuser is someone in a position of authority or a household member.

As the legislative process continues, Gray said he hopes to modify the language to raise the age of consent to 18 more broadly. State law generally exempts relationships in which the parties are within three or four years of one another.

The change faced pushback from some Republicans who raised concerns over possible unintended consequences, including Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, the sponsor of the original bill.

“I stand in opposition to this because it is not in the appropriate place in a bill that is just simply trying to screen our children for exploitation,” Vance said.

Rep. Jamie Allard, R-Eagle River, raised concerns about possible conflicts with other state laws allowing Alaskans to marry or be emancipated at 16 years old.

The amendment passed 32-6, with Vance joining five other Republicans in voting no.  A final vote on the bill is scheduled for the House’s next session on Monday, at which point it would move to the Senate.

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at

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