California became the first state to prohibit “stealthing,” or removing a condom without permission during intercourse, after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law Thursday.
The new measure amends the state’s civil code, adding the act to the state’s civil definition of sexual battery. That makes it clear that victims can sue perpetrators for damages, including punitive damages.
It makes it illegal to remove condoms without obtaining verbal consent.
Democratic Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, who represents the Downey area, originally tried to make it a crime in 2017 after a Yale University study that year said acts of stealthing were increasing against both women and gay men.
Legislative analysts said then that it could already be considered misdemeanor sexual battery, though it is rarely prosecuted given the difficulty in proving that a perpetrator acted intentionally instead of accidently.
The Erotic Service Providers Legal Educational Research Project supported the bill, saying it could allow sex workers to sue clients who remove condoms.
Lawmakers in New York and Wisconsin previously proposed related legislation.
“This law is the first of its kind in the nation, but I urge other states to follow in California’s direction and make it clear that stealthing is not just immoral but illegal,” Garcia said.
Newsom also approved a second Garcia bill, this one treating the rape of a spouse the same as the rape of a non-spouse, removing an exemption to the rape law if the victim is married to the perpetrator.
“Rape is rape,” she said. “And a marriage license is not an excuse for committing one of society’s most violent and sadistic crimes.”
The exemption dates to an era when women were expected to obey their husbands. California had been one of 11 states to distinguish between spousal rape and other forms of sexual assault.
There is no difference in the maximum penalties, but those convicted of spousal rape currently can be eligible for probation instead of prison or jail. They must register as sex offenders under current law only if the act involved the use of force or violence and the spouse was sentenced to state prison.
On Wednesday, Newsom approved extending the statute of limitations for victims to file civil claims if they were sexually assaulted by law enforcement officers who were on duty, in uniform, or armed at the time.
He also approved a bill increasing access to diversion programs for youth who commit nonviolent felonies, with the goal of encouraging more rehabilitation.