by WorldTribune Staff, September 7, 2020
Outrage is growing over legislation passed by California’s State Assembly which would eliminate automatic sex-offender registration for adults who have voluntary oral or anal sex with 14- to-17-year-olds when the offender is within 10 years of the age of the teenager involved.
SB 145 passed both chambers of the State Assembly with no Republican votes. Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the bill.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted Thursday that California Democrats “believe we need more adults having sex with children, and when they do, they shouldn’t register as sex offenders.”
Under SB 145, automatic sex-offender registration would no longer apply to those convicted of “non-forcible sodomy with a minor, oral copulation with a minor, or sexual penetration with a minor,” according to the bill summary.
California Senate Republicans said in a statement that SB 145 “would open the door for adults to victimize minors by luring them with the intent to have sex and then shielding the predator from being automatically registered as a sex offender. In plainer words, certain sexual predators will be able to live among us without our being aware and teens, often the most vulnerable victims of sexual predators, will be even more vulnerable.”
“I mean, this is unbelievable. What kind of a bill is this?” said Republican Assemblyman Steven Choi. “What kind of laws are we trying to enact by this body? This is intolerable.”
Patrick Trueman, president and CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said the legislation would further protect adult offenders, not minors.
“If the concern is a one-year difference between an 18-year-old and a minor about to become an adult, then the law should be confined to that situation, not the extreme situation that the 10-year window provides,” Trueman said.
Samuel Dordulian, a civil attorney in Glendale, California, said he relies on the sex offender registry as a tool to track and eventually sue abusers on behalf of victims. If convicted offenders violate legal restrictions or fail to re-register, police have grounds to arrest them. The list can help get sex offenders off the streets in instances where one of his or her victims is afraid to file direct charges against them.
“We’ve made slow progress toward helping victims to come forward,” Dordulian said. “SB 145 is not going to help that process. … At the end of the day, there will be more child molesters on the street if this passes.”
Democrat support for SB 145 was not unanimous. Democrat Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez said that “Any sex is sex. I don’t care who it’s between or what sex act it is. That being 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 registerable offense.”
Judges already have discretion under state law to decide at sentencing whether to register an offender who has uncoerced vaginal sex with a teenage girl aged 14 to 17 within the 10-year age gap.
Democrat state Sen. Scott Wiener, who introduced the legislation, said “Senate Bill 145 is an anti-discrimination law. It ends discrimination against LGBTQ people on the sex offender registry.”
“There’s a lot of hyperbole and a lot of emotions over it that are getting in the way of us seeing that this is purely an equity issue,” said Democrat Assembly member Laura Friedman. “It is not decriminalizing statutory rape by any extent.”
The legislation is supported by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office; the California District Attorney’s Association, and the California Police Chiefs Association, in part because it would allow the state to stop “wasting resources monitoring an 18-year-old who’s on the registry because he had sex with his 17-year-old boyfriend,” said Friedman.