The recent introduction and passing of Senate Bill 145 (“SB-145”) by the California State Senate has sparked significant public outrage on both sides of the political spectrum, contributing to the spread of misinformation about the bill and its purpose. Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram announcements flooded Internet sites claiming that SB-145 seeks to “legalize pedophilia” and relieve predators of punishment for sex acts. However, it has since been revealed that right-wing conspiracy theorists known as QAnon are behind the spread of misinformation surrounding the bill and the latest series of attacks on democratic legislator, Scott Wiener.
QAnon has also been responsible for misrepresenting the realities of human trafficking via the internet by sensationalizing false information on sexual exploitation. These inaccurate and highly dangerous headlines, photos, tweets, and hashtags have consisted of images of random kidnappings, messages stating a connection between mask-wearing and child sex trafficking, the dreaded #savethechildren hashtag, and many other unfounded claims used to trigger mass hysteria. This spread of misinformation has tainted the significant efforts made by advocates, organizations, and legal experts that work daily to combat against sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and other acts of sexual violence against women and children. QAnon has also created tremendous public outcry by suggesting that SB-145 protects rapists and other sex offenders and weakens the sex offender registry.
However, unlike QAnon posts would suggest, SB-145 is a bill that is intended to “strengthen the sex offender registry and end discrimination against LGBTQ youth.” SB-145 “ends California’s anti-LGBTQ discriminatory treatment of specific sex acts” regarding the sex offender registry law. Before the passage of SB-145, individuals were treated differently under the law depending on the specific sex act in question, making a distinction between vaginal intercourse and other sex acts. If an adult has “voluntary vaginal intercourse with a minor aged 14-17 and is up to 10 years older that the minor”, the offense would not automatically be registered to the sex offender registry. By contrast, before the passing of the bill, if the sexual act was oral copulation or anal sex the court was required to place the defendant on the sex offender registry list, even in instances when prosecutors did not find it necessary to enforce registration considering the facts.
This law, as it stood in California for many years, heavily discriminated against individuals in the LGBTQ communityby making it mandatory for individuals to be placed on the sex offender registry without allowing court discretion, as is allowed in cases concerning vaginal intercourse. Instead of triggering an automatic registration, SB-145 changes the law to allow judges discretion over whether people must register as sex offenders. Further, this bill is only applicable if the adult is within 10 years of age of the minor at the time of offense, and the minor is at least 14 years old. Essentially, this bill is designed to protect consensual relations between individuals close in age and engaging in consensual sex, such as an 18-year-old male engaging in sex acts with a consenting male partner who is 17 years old.
SB-145 ensures that, moving forward, police and other law enforcement agents do not expend limited resources on appropriate, consensual sexual same-sex relations, and instead place true sex offenders on the sex registry. This structure allows punishment to be delivered to those who violently abuse their victims, and fosters a more useful guide for law enforcement agents who track repeat offenders.
The CSE Institute shares this critical information in an ongoing effort to debunk the many myths generated by conspiracy theorists surrounding human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and sexual violence, as seen in the case of Senate Bill 145. We are hopeful this post will debunk myths surrounding this bill by providing fact-based guidance on a highly sensationalized piece of legislation.