ATLANTA -- The Harlem woman listed as the lead plaintiff challenging Georgia's sex-offender law won permission Friday from a McDuffie County judge to have her name removed from the state's sex-offender registry.
Wendy Whitaker had just turned 17 when she had consensual oral sex once with another high school sophomore three weeks shy of his 16th birthday. Her conviction 12 years ago for that act, which would not be illegal for someone that age today, required her listing on the state's sex-offender database, complete with photo and address.
The Southern Center for Human Rights named her as the lead plaintiff when it filed suit in 2006 in federal district court in Rome, Ga., challenging the law. Even though recent changes in the law allowed Whitaker to get off the registry after convincing a judge she was no threat of a repeat offense, her name is still used in referring to the case.
Wednesday, the lawyers for the Southern Center filed a new request with the federal court to rule in their favor.
The original law forced Whitaker to move from the home she and her husband bought in Harlem because it was within 1,000 feet of a daycare center. Then they moved in with his brother in his mobile home but had to move again when a revision to the law added a prohibition against registered sex offenders living within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop.
"I am so relieved that this horrible rollercoaster is finally ending," said Whitaker, age 31. "For years I've lived at my wit's end and in a constant state of stress because I never know what's going to happen to my family and our home."