Are Adults 18 or 21? – Time to Make Up Our Minds

A new proposed law in Florida, HB 1379, will make it illegal for those under twenty-one to work in a strip club or work in an adult entertainment establishment, which includes places such as adult bookstores, adult theaters, special cabarets, and unlicensed massage establishments. Employing someone under twenty-one in one of these establishments would be a second-degree felony. HB 1379 is considered to be an anti-human trafficking bill meant to protect young people, which brings up the question, how old is an actual adult, eighteen or twenty-one? 

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When we talk about minor children in America, we mean children under the age of eighteen, not twenty-one. Everyone knows that, yet there are certain things they’re not allowed to do at eighteen, such as purchasing alcohol, until they’re twenty-one. An eighteen-year-old can join the military and go to war but no drinking. Heck, they can even get married without parental consent at eighteen. Depending on what state you live in, a sixteen-year-old can drive a car. Let’s take it a step further. An eighteen-year-old in Florida can legally get surgery and take hormones to become another gender, but if this law passes, they can’t show off their new body parts in a strip club. Our society must decide how old an adult is and stick with it. 

America has always grappled with the “how old is an adult” question. I remember a time when eighteen-year-olds were legally allowed to drink. Then it became nineteen. Then it became twenty-one. I remember being in college, and my friend’s lucky older sister was grandfathered in because the law changed during a time when she had already legally been allowed to drink. So when the law changed, she was still able to go out and buy alcohol, even though she wasn’t twenty-one. Not long ago, the age for getting a carry permit for guns in Florida was raised to twenty-one. Then it went back to eighteen (before the law changed to no license needed.) All of this speaks to the same issue: we need to pick an age and say, this is an adult. 

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I’d like to see anyone who joins the military while under twenty-one be able to have the same rights and privileges as a twenty-one-year-old adult. But unless lawmakers are on the same page, we’ll see some states where sixteen-year-olds are allowed to vote, but twenty-year-olds won’t be able to work in a cabaret lounge. 

I’m all for any law that will stop modern-day slavery, known as human trafficking, but I’m not sure this law is it. If people under twenty-one need to be protected from these kinds of dangers, then in today’s much scarier world than in times past, a minor should be anyone under twenty-one, and the laws should reflect that.

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