On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new California sex law that would give judges a say on whether to list someone as a sex offender for having oral or anal sex with a minor.
The bill expands the discretion currently granted judges in statutory rape cases and was promoted as bringing fairness under the law to LGBTQ defendants.
The current law, which has been in place for decades, permits judges to decide whether a man should be placed on California’s sex offender registry if he had voluntary intercourse with someone 14 to 17 years old and was no more than 10 years older than the person.
But the judge’s discretion only applied to a man who had vaginal intercourse. The new change in the law allows judges to use that same discretion when the case involves voluntary oral or anal sex.
The law won’t apply when a minor is under 14 years old, when the age gap is larger than 10 years, or when either one of the parties says the sex wasn’t consensual.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, introduced the bill.
The law ends discrimination “by treating LGBTQ young people the exact same way that straight young people have been treated since 1944,” Wiener said in a statement, adding: “Today, California took yet another step toward an equitable society.”
A non-profit civil rights group, Equality California, who co-sponsored the bill with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, also applauded Newsom’s signing of the law.
“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,” Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur said in the statement released by Wiener’s office.
The bill passed the Assembly and Senate on split votes. Some members objected to the bill because they saw it as an easing of punishments against those who have sex with minors.
“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,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, 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.”
Many critics of Senate Bill 145 worried that the bill would help legalize pedophilia.
California District Attorneys Association and California Police Chiefs Association, as well as other civil rights groups, supported the bill.