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California Senate Bill 145 would end sentencing discrimination

California Senate Bill 145

A state bill that would erase a discriminatory sentencing law that has disproportionately targeted members of the LGBTQ community to register on California’s sex offender list has received support from law enforcement and civil rights advocates. Photo: iStock

A state bill that would erase a discriminatory sentencing law that has disproportionately targeted members of the LGBTQ community to register on California’s sex offender list has received support from law enforcement and civil rights advocates.

The bill also has bipartisan support as it makes its way through the state legislature.

Under California law, if an adult is convicted of consensual vaginal intercourse with a minor between 14 and 17 years old, and the adult is within 10 years of age of the minor, a judge is allowed to decide if the convicted person would be placed on the sex offender registry or not.

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California Senate Bill 145

California Senate Bill 145 would only amend state law to include other types of intercourse such as oral and anal sex and digital penetration.

The bill, which has cleared the Senate, awaits a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If it passes Appropriations, it moves the Assembly floor, and then the Senate would have to concur with any Assembly amendments. Final stop is the governor’s desk, which it must reach by  September 13.

The bill’s author, Sen. Scott Wiener, said that the bill would eliminate a disparity in sentencing that has harmed the LGBTQ community.

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The problem

For example, if an 18-year-old heterosexual man has vaginal intercourse with his 17-year-old girlfriend, he can be arrested, charged and convicted of a crime, but is not automatically required to register as a sex offender. The judge is allowed to make that decision.

However, if an 18-year-old gay man has sex with his 17-year-old boyfriend, the judge is required by law to automatically place the adult on the sex offender registry, regardless of the circumstances.

“We’re not looking to change the definition of sexual abuse is,” said Victor Ruiz-Conejo, Wiener’s spokesman. “We want to have fair sentencing no matter the kind of sex.”

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Also, SB 145 would not change the sentence for having sex with an underage person.

Bill support

SB 145 is co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Equality California. It also is supported by law enforcement and civil rights advocates, including the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, the Anti-Defamation League, the California Public Defenders Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Lambda Legal.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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