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Bill aims to end double standard for sex offender registry

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A new state bill introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, could possibly change the way young offenders, specifically those who identify as LGBT, are put on the state’s sex offender registry list, Wiener’s office announced Tuesday.

Currently, while consensual sex between 15- to 17-year-olds and a partner within 10 years of age is illegal, vaginal intercourse between the two does not require an offender to register as a sex offender. Other forms of intercourse such as oral and anal intercourse require sex offender registration.

That practice, according to Wiener, disproportionately targets young LGBT people, who usually cannot engage in vaginal intercourse. Senate Bill 145 would put an end to “blatant discrimination against young LGBT people engaged in consensual activity,” Wiener said in a statement.

Wiener said:

“This bill is about treating everyone equally under the law. Discrimination against LGBT people is simply not the California way. These laws were put in place during a more conservative and anti-LGBT time in California’s history. They have ruined people’s lives and made it harder for them to get jobs, secure housing, and live productive lives. It is time we update these laws and treat everyone equally.”

In cases involving vaginal intercourse, a judge will typically decide based on the facts of the case whether registration is warranted, whereas in the other cases, sex offender registration is mandatory. According to Wiener, SB 145 would not change the legality of the forms of intercourse and would not change the potential sentence for having sex with an underage person. Instead, the bill would give judges the ability to evaluate whether the accused be required to register as a sex offender. The change, Wiener’s office contends, would result in the equal treatment of straight and LGBT young people and end the stigmatization of LGBT sexual relationships.

SB 145 is being sponsored by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Los Angeles-based LGBT civil rights organization Equality California. The bill was co-authored by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton.

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement:

“There’s no reason for the law to treat a high school senior dating a high school junior differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity … For years, we’ve been working to make this common-sense fix and ensure LGBTQ young people are treated the same as their peers.”

Wiener’s office also noted that up until recently sex offender registration was for life. However, in 2017, legislation authored by Wiener, created a tiered registry system, placing high-risk offenders on the list for life, while others can petition to be removed after 10 or 20 years, depending on the offense.

Additionally, Wiener’s office added that if passed, SB 145 would overturn a 2015 California Supreme Court ruling which decided that since vaginal sexual intercourse can result in pregnancy while non-vaginal sex cannot, it is not discriminatory to treat those offenses differently and with harsher penalties.

SB 145 will be set for a hearing in Sacramento in the coming months, according to Wiener’s office.

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