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California governor Gavin Newsom defies far-right smears to sign bill ending anti-LGBT disparity in sex offence laws

Nick Duffy September 14, 2020
Democratic governor of California Gavin Newsom

Democratic governor of California Gavin Newsom (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The governor of California Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that eliminates a disparity in sex offence laws treating LGBT+ people more harshly, despite attacks from the far-right, Donald Trump Jr and Ted Cruz.

In a low-key announcement on Friday (September 11) amid the wildfire emergency in the state, Newsom’s office confirmed he had signed SB 145 — one week after the state legislature approved the bill, penned gay Democratic lawmaker Scott Wiener.

Wiener was threatened with “public execution” after far-right conspiracy theorists latched onto the legislation, which closes a loophole in California’s sexual offence laws.

Under existing state law it is a crime to have sex with someone under the age of 18, but judges have a discretionary power to keep teenagers off the sex offenders’ register for having sex with someone of a similar age, such as a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old.

However, the powers only apply to “penile-vaginal intercourse”, which means that LGBT+ teens are liable to be added to the sex offenders’ registry for having consensual sex, where straight teens are not.

Far-right activists had launched baseless attacks on sex offence law

Wiener’s bill to fix the issue by applying the law evenly has led to him being smeared a a “paedophile” by followers of QAnon – the far-reaching but unfounded conspiracy theory that, among other things, claims Donald Trump is at war with an elite, international ring of Satan-worshipping child sex traffickers.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Friday
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Friday (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The attacks stemming from the conspiracist far-right were also elevated by leading Republicans, with Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump Jr and shock jock Rush Limbaugh all perpetuating falsehoods relating to the law.

Cruz claimed: “Priorities. Today’s CA Dems believe we need more adults having sex with children, and when they do, they shouldn’t register as sex offenders.”

Meanwhile, Trump Jr raged: “Why are Joe Biden Democrats working in California to pander to the wishes of pedophiles and child rapists? New California bill would lower penalties for adults who have sexual relations with a minor”.

Departing from both the truth and any plane of reality where truth exists as an objective construct, Rush Limbaugh opted to claim to his listeners: “Paedophilia is now legal in California. Now a 21 year old can have sex with an 11 year old, and not be listed on the sex registry as a sex offender.”

Fact-checkers have been working overtime to point out that nearly all of the viral claims spreading about the law are false – though social media giants Twitter and Facebook have done little to counter the spread of the falsehoods.

LGBT+ activists celebrate California governor’s decision to ignore hateful ‘misinformation campaign’

Celebrating the decision to sign it, Senator Scott Wiener said in a statement: “It’s appalling that in 2020, California continues to discriminate against LGBTQ people, by mandating that LGBTQ young people be placed on the sex offender registry in situations where straight people aren’t required to be placed on the registry.

“SB 145 simply ends that discrimination by treating LGBTQ young people the exact same way that straight young people have been treated since 1944.

“I am so grateful that Governor Newsom — one of the LGBTQ community’s strongest allies ever — once again has shown that he gets it and that he’s willing to support our community even when it’s hard.

“And the politics here are hard, with the massive Trump/QAnon/MAGA misinformation campaign against the legislation. The facts are clear: SB 145 simply ends anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Today, California took yet another step toward an equitable society.”

Democratic state senator Scott Wiener
Democratic state senator Scott Wiener

Equality California’s executive director Rick Chavez Zbur said: “We are incredibly grateful to Governor Newsom for his unyielding commitment to LGBTQ+ civil rights and social justice.

“Dr King said, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’ Signing SB 145 was the right thing to do.

“It was the right thing to do for LGBTQ+ young people, it was the right thing to do to keep our communities safe and it was the right thing to do for California.

“If we want a California for all, then we need a justice system that treats all Californians fairly and equally — regardless of who they are, what they look like or whom they love. That goal is at the core of SB 145.

“Thanks to Governor Newsom and Senator Wiener, California is one step closer to living up to our shared values of fairness, equality and justice for all.”

More: California, Gavin Newsom, governor, Scott Wiener, sex offences

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