By Linh Nguyen
SACRAMENTO – Despite public opposition and misinformation, Governor Newsom has signed into law Senate Bill 145—incorrectly confused with legalizing pedophilia by QAnon and others—which amends a sex crimes law that discriminates against young LGBTQ people on California’s sex offender registry.
Under longstanding California law (since 1944), if an adult has voluntary penile-vaginal intercourse with a minor aged 14 through 17 and is up to 10 years older than the minor, the offense is not automatically registerable. A judge would have discretion of whether to place the defendant on the sex offender registry depending on the facts of the case.
However, if the act is oral sex, anal sex or sexual penetration, the court must place the defendant on the sex offender registry regardless of the facts of the crime and even in cases where neither the prosecutor nor the judge want to place the defendant on the registry.
This distinction of the law is discriminatory toward LGBTQ young people as, for example, it would place a 19-year-old on the sex offender registry for having voluntary, non-vaginal sex with a 17-year-old.
The age of consent in California is 18. Therefore, having sexual relations with a minor is considered statutory rape and may be considered a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the case details and ages of the defendant and alleged victim.
SB 145 would end California discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ young people for specific sex acts regarding sex offender registry law by placing those sex acts under the same category as penile-vaginal sex.
“I am so grateful that Governor Newsom—one of the LGBTQ community’s strongest allies ever—once again has shown that he’s willing to support our community even when it’s hard,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), author of SB 145, in a statement.
He added, “And make no mistake: the politics here are hard, with the massive Trump, QAnon, and MAGA misinformation campaign against the legislation. The facts are clear: SB 145 simply ends anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Today, California took yet another step toward an equitable society.”
The signing of SB 145 was met with widespread opposition by some in the public and prominent politicians.
Posts spreading on social media when the bill was being discussed in the state legislature falsely interpreted the bill as legalizing pedophilia. These posts echoed posts shared by conspiracy theory and QAnon social media accounts earlier in the summer.
QAnon is a right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy theory group centered on beliefs of a deep state plot against the president involving satanism and child sex trafficking.
In early August, Sen. Wiener received threatening messages using anti-gay slurs and calling him a pedophile for sponsoring SB 145.
“Despite massive, disgusting misinformation from the QAnon cult—including extreme death threats against me—we were able to pass SB 145 because it’s the right thing to do,” Wiener said in a statement.
One Facebook post read, “PEDOPHILIA is now LEGAL in CALIFORNIA. Now a 21 year old can have sex with an 11 year old, and not be listed on the sex registry as a sex offender. This is unbelievable California.”
The bill would not apply when the minor is under the age of 14, when the age gap is larger than 10 years or when either party says the sex was not consensual.
Another Twitter post strikes at Democratic Party Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris for being a supporter of Wiener, the outspoken supporter of the bill.
According to the bill’s authors and outside experts, these posts fundamentally misrepresent SB 145.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who drafted the bill, said in a statement: “This bill allows judges and prosecutors to evaluate cases involving consensual sex acts between young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, on an individual basis.”
“Signing SB 145 was the right thing to do,” said Rick Chavez Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, which co-sponsored the bill with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“It was the right thing to do for LGBTQ+ young people, it was the right thing to do to keep our communities safe and it was the right thing to do for California. If we want a California for all, then we need a justice system that treats all Californians fairly and equally — regardless of who they are, what they look like or whom they love. That goal is at the core of SB 145,” said Zbur.
SB 145 is co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Equality California, and is supported by both law enforcement (California District Attorneys Association and California Police Chiefs Association), as well as civil rights advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the California Public Defenders Association, Children Now, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
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