California Bill Removes Mandatory Sex Offender Registration for Some Sexual Acts Between Adults and Minors

The California Legislature passed Senate Bill 145 (SB 145) on August 31, a law that exempts some people convicted of certain sexual offenses with minors from having to register as sex offenders.

LGBT activists and their allies argued that current California sex offender registration laws discriminate against LGBT young people and should be changed. According to the group Equality California, which co-sponsored the legislation, “SB 145 aligns registration requirements for LGBTQ young people engaged in voluntary sexual activity with existing requirements for their non-LGBTQ peers.”

Under current California law, when an adult is convicted of statutory rape (non-forcible, vaginal sexual intercourse with a minor), a judge has some discretion over whether or not to place the offender on the state’s Sex Offender Registry – if the minor was between the ages of 14 and 17 and was less than 10 years younger than the adult.

So a 20-year-old man, convicted of statutory rape of a 16 year-old-girl, would not automatically be added to the registry.

But if an adult was convicted of other sexual activity with a minor, such as anal or oral sexual activity or other forms of sexual penetration, the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act requires that the adult automatically be registered as a sex offender – regardless of the age of the minor or the age differential.

So, under current law, if a 20-year-old man is convicted of unforced sexual activity with a 16-year-old boy, the man is automatically listed as a sex offender. That will change if SB 145 is signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Judges will now have some discretion in these cases.

Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, sponsored the bill, which passed with a vote of 41-25 in the Assembly and 23-10 in the Senate. He believes those penalty differences are unjust and said, “California shouldn’t be discriminating against LGBTQ young people, particularly when that discrimination forces these kids onto the sex offender registry.”

But even some of Wiener’s Democrat colleagues disagreed. Assembly member Lorena Gonzales, D-San Diego, spoke out against the bill. In a YouTube video posted by California Family Council, a Focus-affiliated organization, she explained that she “completely agreed with the “equity argument” – that all adult-minor sexual activity should be treated the same under the law.

But then she said, “I cannot in my mind, as a mother, understand how sex between a 24-year-old and a 14-year-old could ever be ‘consensual.’ How it could ever not be a registrable offense.”

“I don’t care what kind of sex it is, I don’t care,” Gonzales said. “The bottom line is when a 24-year-old has sex with a 14-year-old, it is always in an inequitable situation.” She had asked that the law should be amended to strengthen the penalty for heterosexual offenders, rather than lower it for same-sex offenders.

In an impassioned speech, Gonzalez argued: “We should never give up on this idea that children should not in any way be subject to a predator. And that’s what it is. I have not and I’ve never heard – and I’ve challenged everybody – give me a situation where a 24-year-old had sex with a 14-year-old, any kind of sex, and it wasn’t predatory. Any example. And I’ve yet to see it.” Gonzalez encouraged the legislature to vote against the bill and to go back to the drawing board to make sentencing the same for all sexual activity with a minor.

Assembly member Steven Choi, R-Orange County, also spoke against the bill. He said that he didn’t understand why a 24-year-old coach, for example, should not automatically be required to register as a sex offender for sexual activity with a 15-year-old student. “This is unbelievable. What kind of a bill is this? What kind of laws are we trying to enact by this body? This is intolerable,” Choi said.

Wiener, who received violent, offensive threats after presenting the bill, praised its passage. He said: “This irrational discrimination on the sex offender registry was created when California banned LGBT sex. This distinction between vaginal intercourse and other forms of intercourse is a relic of California’s discriminatory past, and it’s time to bring an end to it. SB 145 brings parity to the sex offender registry so we are treating all young people the same. Going on the sex-offender registry can ruin a young person’s life, making it harder for them to find a job and housing. We need to put an end to this terrible discrimination.”

In addition to the LGBT activist group Equality California, the bill was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. It was supported by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Children Now, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

SB 145 now goes to Governor Newsom’s desk for approval.

Related articles and resources:

California Family Council:

World Magazine: Follow the Assembly Line – exposes the influence of Equality California and California’s LGBT Legislative Caucus

Focus on the Family:

Photo from YouTube

 

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