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False Equality - SB-145 Places More Children At Risk

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

On Saturday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill SB-145 into law. This law “exempts from mandatory registration under the act 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.”

The bill was introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener (D), who applauded Newsom’s legislative endorsement, saying “Newsom’s signing of the bill ended “blatant discrimination” against LGBTQ youth in California by treating them “the exact same way that straight young people have been treated since 1944.””

The supposed fundamental argument in favor of SB-145 is that it achieves some form of equality. According to the Associated Press, the previous law permitted a judge 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.” Previously, this only applied to voluntary vaginal intercourse, with SB-145 permitting “judges to use that same discretion when the case involves voluntary oral or anal sex.”

By nature of the forms of intercourse, it is undeniable that the law was discriminatory, treating men who had voluntary vaginal intercourse with a female minor differently to men who had voluntary oral or anal intercourse with a male or female minor. However, this quest for equality makes the deeply flawed assumption that the original law was morally just, making the new law equally just by some form of ethical transitive property.

In reality, the opposite is true. They have assumed the morality of an existing law, and sought to apply it equally, rather than identifying the primary concern of immorality which makes the issue of inequality redundant. The fact that “straight people” were permitted to evade the sex offender registry for invalid reasons is simply not an argument in favor of SB-145. It is an argument in favor of striking down the original law.

Note the language used by Sen. Wiener when he celebrated Newsom’s support. SB-145 “ended “blatant discrimination” against LGBTQ youth,” presenting the recipients of intercourse as the victims of “blatant discrimination.” However, SB-145 has no impact on the minor, but the person convicted of statutory rape. Indeed, presenting SB-145 as having achieved some form of equality for minors is absurd when the law only weakens the punishment for those who abuse minors.

This law permits a judge to determine whether a man should be forced to register as a sex offender if he had voluntary intercourse with a minor aged between 14 and 17 and was no more than 10 years older than that minor. Newsom and Wiener must explain why a law which would allow a 24-year old man to have “voluntary” sex with a 14-year old and evade the sex offender registry is anything other than a victory for those who wish to have sex with children.

If the California legislature chooses to drastically reduce the acceptable “age difference” which determines whether statutory rape is a “sex offense,” then we can debate this matter further. However, to present SB-145 as a triumph for LGBTQ equality does an irredeemable disservice to our society’s vulnerable youth who are already at risk. With that in mind, any support for SB-145 is evidence of nothing other than moral depravity under the false veil of achieving “equality.”

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