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Explainer: What is the California Bill to change the Sex Offender Registration Act?

Editor’s Note: Due to the nature of this bill, there is sensitive language in the article. 

On Aug. 31, the California State Assembly passed Senate Bill 145 with a vote of 41-18, following the State Senate where the bill passed 23-10. The vote largely passed along partisan lines. The bill’s passage rightly sparked concern and headlines in multiple news outlets across the country.

What would the bill do?

Currently, California’s Sex Offender Registration Act requires a person convicted of certain sex crimes including rape, indecent exposure, and sex offenses involving a minor, to register as a sex offender for varying lengths of time. The current law in the California code does, however, give judges discretion in cases involving a young adult convicted of statutory rape where “vaginal intercourse” took place and the victim was between the ages of 14-17. In other words, judges in California may presently decide not to require offenders to register as “sex offenders” in certain cases involving heterosexual intercourse with a minor. In such cases, a judge can decide whether to require the young adult to register as a sex offender in the event that the offender is within 10 years of age of the victim.

This new bill, SB 145, seeks to amend the California Sex Offender Registration Act to extend judicial discretion to include young adults convicted of statutory rape where “anal or oral sex” took place, extending the judicial discretion provision to include homosexual sex acts. The bill would exempt from mandatory sex offender registration, “a person convicted of certain offenses involving minors if the person is not more than 10 years older than the minor and if that offense is the only one requiring the person to register.”

Why was it offered?

The bill’s author, California State Sen. Scott Wiener (D–San Francisco), contends, “SB 145 puts an end to blatant discrimination against young LGBT people engaged in consensual sexual activity.” Further, Weiner argued, “This bill is about treating everyone equally under the law. Discrimination against LGBT people is simply not the California way.”

Why is this legislation harmful? 

Adults having sex with minors is never permissible. If the aim is equality, then current California law should be amended to ensure that “vaginal intercourse” with a minor is grounds for mandatory sex offender registration. This bill goes in the opposite direction, jeopardizing the safety of children by upending the basic moral code of society that minors should always be protected from exploitation. This situation reveals the already alarming legal discretion given to judges when ruling on a case of heterosexual abuse. Gov. Newsom should not only veto this new legislation, he should clearly advocate for the underlying statute to be strengthened in an effort to prevent the abuse of minors. A person guilty of statutory rape should be required to register as a sex offender. 

What can Christians do?

While this bill was only passed in California, Christians from all states would be wise to know the fate of SB 145. All Christians should pray for the state of California and its leaders. Pray for the government to embrace its duty to protect all its citizens, especially children. By passing this bill, California lawmakers are not protecting children but exposing them to harm and exploitation. With the bill now sitting on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, Christians in California should call their governor to advocate that he veto the bill.

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