The California legislature finished its 2020 session on Monday by passing a controversial bill to reduce the penalties on some adults who have consensual sex with minors as young as 14 years of age. Senate Bill 145‘s author, LGBT Caucus Chair Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), said the bill was necessary because current law is harsher if the crime involved homosexual sex between a young adult and a minor as opposed to heterosexual sex. All the Republicans and even some prominent and powerful Democrats did not buy that argument.
One of those Democrats was Assembly Appropriation Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).
“Any sex is sex. I don’t care who it is between or what sex act it is. That being said, I cannot in my mind as a mother understand how sex between a 24-year-old and a 14-year-old could ever be consensual, how it could ever not be a registerable offense,” Gonzalez said, her voice cracking at times with emotion. “We should never give up on this idea that children are not, should be in any way subject to a predator. And that is what it is…. Give me a situation where a 24-year-old had sex with a 14-year-old, any kind of sex, and it wasn’t predatory. Any example and I have yet to see it.”
Former educator Assemblyman Steven Choi also spoke out passionately against the bill. “In the age of historic sex trafficking and child trafficking here in California, I think this bill is entirely inappropriate,” Choi told his fellow members of the Assembly on Monday. “I don’t understand why a 24-year-old volunteer coach should not have to register as a sex offender for being with a 15-year-old student. Statutory rape should be a registerable offense either way. … This is unbelievable. What kind of a bill is this? This is intolerable.”
Specifically, SB 145 gives judges discretion over whether to make an adult register as a sex offender if they had anal or oral sex with a willing minor. The discretion is only allowed if the minor victim is 14-year-old or older and the statutory rapist is less than ten years older. That means a judge can give a break to a 24-year-old who seduces a same-sex 14-year-old. The law currently and wrongly gives the same judicial discretion to similar statutory rape cases if the victim and perpetrator had vaginal sex. The bill barely passed the Assembly with a vote of 41-25, and passed the Senate 23-10. See votes here.
This bill is especially concerning in light of how many LGBT organizations are sponsoring social events between pre-teens and young adults. For instance, the LGBTQ Connection in Sonoma County hosted a “Love is Love” dance for LGBTQ youth ages 11-20 two years ago. The Rainbow Community Center in Concord held an LGBTQ Youth Rally for 11-25 year-olds. The LGBT Center of Orange County holds events for “allied youth leaders ages 14-24.” See details on these events and other LGBT events here.