CA Governor Newsom signs into law controversial LGBTQ teen sex offender policy change
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Governor Gavin Newsom late Friday signed into law a controversial bill that ends discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ young adults faced with registering as sex offenders.
The author of Senate Bill 145, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), has faced death threats and been subjected to anti-Semitic harassment from followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory for months due to the policy change. He has also been falsely accused of promoting pedophilia, not only from online trolls but also from his colleague Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore).
Close to 8 p.m. tonight (September 11) Newsom's office announced he had signed the bill along with 22 other bills. He made no comment about any of the legislation, and the press statement from his office made no mention of the controversy surrounding SB 145. It merely referred to the bill as "Sex offenders: registration."
In a Facebook post Wiener thanked Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco and long a champion of LGBTQ issues, for signing the bill into law in spite of the lies and homophobic reaction it had generated.
"Proving again that he's a true champion for the LGBTQ community - even when it's hard - Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 145, ending discrimination against LGBTQ young people on California's sex offender registry," wrote Wiener. "Thank you, Governor, for seeing through the QAnon lies about this equality legislation."
Wiener noted that he had "been subjected to a tidal wave of QAnon/MAGA anti-semitic, homophobic death threats, doxxing, and slander regarding this legislation. #SB145 is supported by law enforcement, civil rights groups & sexual assault survivor groups. Today, equality and justice won."
On Twitter, Melendez lashed out at Newsom for signing the legislation.
"Well what a shock. Newsom signed SB145, the bill that allows a 24 year old to have sex with a 14 year old and escape a felony conviction and requirement to be a registered sex offender. Absolutely disgusting," she wrote.
The bill doesn't change any criminal statutes. In actuality, Wiener's legislation ensures LGBTQ adolescents are treated the same as their heterosexual peers when faced with the possibility of being listed on the state's sex offender registry. He has been pushing to pass it for several years now.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, had held it over last summer in order to address concerns she had with the bill. It resulted in a rare public rebuke from the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California, a lead backer of the bill whose leadership dinged Gonzalez on its annual scorecard for state legislators causing her to receive a less than perfect score.
Nonetheless, Gonzalez had pledged to work with Wiener and LGBTQ advocates on moving the legislation forward this year. The delay, however, resulted in Wiener being subjected to the online harassment this spring and summer.
Undeterred, Wiener was able to rally support for his legislation. It grants judges discretion over whether to include on the sex registry people over the age of 18 who have been convicted of oral or anal intercourse with someone between the ages of 14 and 17, provided that the individual so convicted is within 10 years of age of their consensual sexual partner. Under current law, such individuals must automatically register as a sex offender.
EQCA had co-sponsored the bill with the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. A broad coalition of groups had backed the legislation, including the California District Attorneys Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, the California Public Defenders Association, Children Now, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
EQCA Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur hailed Newsom for making SB 145 law.
"We are incredibly grateful to Governor Newsom for his unyielding commitment to LGBTQ+ civil rights and social justice. Dr. King said, 'The time is always right to do what is right.' Signing SB 145 was the right thing to do," stated Zbur. "It was the right thing to do for LGBTQ+ young people, it was the right thing to do to keep our communities safe and it was the right thing to do for California."
Zbur added, "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. That goal is at the core of SB 145. Thanks to Governor Newsom and Senator Wiener, California is one step closer to living up to our shared values of fairness, equality and justice for all."
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