Martin Ezell is tired of the dead-end jobs and unrelenting stigma that comes with being a registered sex offender, says the Houston Chronicle. He has a master’s degree in liberal arts and wants to be a teacher; employers have been unable to see beyond his presence on the state’s sex offender registry, which he is required to be on for the rest of his life. He was convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl who was half his age; the registry doesn’t divulge that his victim was his girlfriend who now is his wife, with whom he has three children. There’s little in his profile to distinguish him from the repeat pedophiles and violent rapists who are among the 54,000-plus registered sex offenders in the state’s database. The military veteran, who lives with his family south of Austin, is so angry about his lifetime registration requirement that he has joined forces with hundreds of other sex offenders similarly aggrieved about being on the registry.
This unlikely political force, which dubs itself Texas Voices, vows to fight the state’s – and the nation’s – sweeping registration laws. The group believes community notification laws fail to protect the public, because they don’t distinguish dangerous predators from otherwise harmless men and women who foolishly had sex with underage lovers, served their sentences and don’t need a lifetime of public scrutiny. Texas Voices targets its message at those who committed nonviolent offenses that did not involve young children. Selling the concept to the public may be difficult. Texas law stipulates that minors, defined as anyone younger than 17, cannot legally consent to sex with an adult. Ray Allen, the former Texas House Corrections chair who helped shepherd into law tough sex registration bills, said he and his colleagues went too far.