Newsom Signs New Changes to California Sex Offender Laws

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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Friday aimed at expanding protections to LGBTQ youth in cases of statutory rape. The new law will give judges a say in whether to list a person as a sex offender if they engage in oral or anal sex with a minor.

Expanding LGBTQ Protection?

The new law replaces a decades-old statute that gave judges discretion in cases where a man had sex with a person between the ages of 14 and 17, and who was no more than ten years younger than the adult. That law, however, only applied to cases where an adult man had vaginal intercourse with a minor. The new law grants judges the ability to apply the same discretion in cases of oral or anal sex. It will not apply in cases where the minor is under the age of 14, when the age gap is greater than ten years, or when the sex was nonconsensual.

State Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, introduced the bill as a way to grant equal legal protections to youth who have intercourse with members of the same sex. Wiener says the law ends discrimination “by treating LGBTQ young people the exact same way that straight young people have been treated since 1944.” It will give queer youth greater protection in cases where nonconsensual sex occurs, while offering protection in cases of consensual sex between people of disparate ages. “Today, California took yet another step toward an equitable society,” Wiener added.

Criticism

Despite the bill’s passage, it received criticism from members of both political parties, some of whom believe it eases penalties against predators who have sex with minors. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, for instance, is a San Diego Democrat who was appalled by the bill’s contents.

“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,” Gonzales said before the bill’s passage. “We should never give up on this idea that children should be in no way subject to a predator.” Meanwhile, some online truthers have falsely claimed that the bill legalizes pedophilia.

Still, several civil rights groups and legal organizations supported the measure. Equality California, a civil rights nonprofit, as well as the California District Attorneys Association and California Police Chiefs Association were among the bill’s endorsers.

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