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Fact check: California bill does not legalize pedophilia

Posts on Facebook claim that SB-145, a bill passed by the California State Senate on August 31, 2020 seeks to “legalize pedophilia.” This claim is false, as the bill is intended to reform the state’s sex offender registry to be fairer to young LGBT adults who may be in technical violation of statutory rape laws. The bill seeks to treat all statutory rape cases—regardless of what kind of sex they involve—equally.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples of these claims can be found here&set=a.197249887068532&type=3&theater , here , and here .

Introduced by California state senator Scott Wiener in early August 2020, the bill ( here&showamends=false&fbclid=IwAR1Ga9xTlZ1vwwrWI4_llPZRfKDwftpD-cWLTQF6BpZFHbHtDx3JA68md48 ) intends to equalize how state law treats cases of statutory rape, regardless of what kind of intercourse—vaginal, oral, or anal, as well as digital penetration—is involved ( here ).

Under current law, California judges have discretion over registering individuals of certain ages as sex offenders if they have engaged in vaginal intercourse with a minor who is both over the age of 14 and within a 10-year age range here&division=&title=9.&part=1.&chapter=5.5.&article= ). (The bill does not apply to anyone under 14 years old, here ).

In other words, rather than the young adult being an automatically registered as sex offender, the judge may decide. The most extreme example would be a 24-year-old engaging in non-coercive vaginal sex with a 14-year-old. A more common example, in which it would likely be inappropriate to add a person to the registry, would be a 19-year-old and a 17-year-old having vaginal sex.

If the situations mentioned above involved anal sex, oral sex, or digital penetration – more typical among the LGBT individuals—a judge would not have discretion over the young adult’s registration as a sex offender. Rather, the registration would be automatic, even in the case of a 19-year-old and a 17-year-old having non-vaginal sex.

Some Facebook posts, like the one here , claim that the bill allows pedophilia “to be considered a sexual orientation in the LGBTQ community.” This is false. SB-145 amends Section 290 of the existing state penal code ( here&showamends=false&fbclid=IwAR1Ga9xTlZ1vwwrWI4_llPZRfKDwftpD-cWLTQF6BpZFHbHtDx3JA68md48 ) to apply the same standard of judicial discretion to straight people and LGBT people alike. Senator Wiener described SB-145 as “an anti-discrimination law” that “ends discrimination against LGBTQ people on the sex offender registry.” ( here ).

As reported here by Mother Jones, “LGBTQ advocates argue the situation unfairly penalizes people who do not engage in penile-vaginal intercourse, a problem that Sen. Wiener’s legislation aims to fix.”

According to Mother Jones ( here ), the Sacramento Bee ( here ), and Wiener’s official website ( here ), the state senator has faced online harassment from troll accounts and followers of QAnon, a “big tent” conspiracy theory community spreading misinformation about topics ranging from alien landings to vaccine safety ( here ), for introducing the reform bill. On Aug. 6, Wiener began a Twitter thread ( here ) sharing some of the violent, homophobic, and antisemitic messages he has consequently received.  

VERDICT

False. California Senate Bill 145 does not “legalize pedophilia,” nor does it classify pedophilia as a sexual orientation. It extends the same discretion state judges currently have over sex offender registration for certain young adults who have engaged in vaginal sex with certain minors to those who have engaged in non-vaginal sex.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here . 

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