California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed the controversial SB-145 into law amid violent opposition from conservatives.
The new law gives local courts that same discretionary ability in cases of oral or anal sex with a minor, as long as the minor is aged between 14 and 17 years old, and that they are no more than 10 years younger than the offender.
Current laws in California mandate that an adult who is found to have had oral or anal sex with a minor be automatically placed on the sex offender registry. In the case of adults who are found to have had vaginal intercourse with a minor, the court has discretion whether or not to require the offender be placed on the sex offender registry.
The bill’s advocates maintain that its purpose is to ensure that LGBTQ young adults are treated no differently than their heterosexual peers.
State Senator Scott Wiener, the bil’s author, explains that “Senate Bill 145 is an anti-discrimination law. t ends discrimination against LGBTQ people on the sex offender registry.”
He gives an example of how the law works,“A 19-year-old has a 17-year-old girlfriend and they have sex, that is statutory rape. But the law right now says that the judge does not have to put that 19-year-old boy on the sex offender registry because of the kind of sex that they were having. But if it’s a 19-year-old boy having sex with a 17-year-old boyfriend, the judge must put that 19-year-old onto the sex offender registry, even if it was completely consensual, even if they were boyfriends, even if there was nothing coercive or predatory about it.”
Wiener argues that the bill has the support of law enforcement officials, civil rights groups, and sexual assault survivor groups.
California State Senator Melissa Melendez, for her part, is vehemently against the bill.
“SB145 allows adults who have ‘consensual’ sex with a 14 year old to not be charged as sex offenders,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s a disgusting bill and one that should be promptly vetoed.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, is also opposed to the bill.
“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 registerable offense. I challenge 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.”
The bill passed the Senate in a vote of 23-10 and the Assembly 41-18 before reaching Governor Newsom made it into a law.