California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that would give judges a say on whether to list someone as a sex offender for having oral or anal sex with a minor.
Senate Bill 145 — touted as bringing legal equality to LGBTQ defendants — was signed Friday.
Currently under state law, judges can already decide whether to put someone on the sex offender registry, but only if the case involved a man having voluntary vaginal intercourse.
The measure expands that discretion to cases involving oral or anal sex — something that proponents say would expand the exemption from mandatory registration to LGBTQ defendants as well.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author, said the current state law that SB 145 amends is a remnant of California’s old anti-sodomy laws intended to criminalize sex between men, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The bill addresses cases like when an 18-year-old is dating a younger high schooler. The person can still be convicted of a sex offense but they should not automatically be registered as a sex offender, Wiener said.
“This bill would exempt 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 legislation reads.
SB 145 captured the attention of Republicans and far-right conspiracy theorists, some of whom falsely claim that California is legalizing pedophilia. Most of the criticism was centered on the 10-year age gap. But that provision has been in the state’s sex offender registry law for decades, the Times reports.
Wiener said none of the lawmakers criticizing the bill have tried to change the provision on the 10-year gap in California’s sexual offender registry in cases involving heterosexual sex with a minor.