Center says sex offender bill misunderstood

By David Beasley

A bill changing sex-offender registration requirements recently signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom has been widely misunderstood by critics, said Carol Beecroft, CEO of the Women’s Center High Desert Inc. in Ridgecrest.

“I do believe there are some good things about this bill,” Beecroft told the Kern Valley Sun.

A California Senate analysis of SB 145 said it “Exempts a person convicted of non-forcible sodomy with a minor, oral copulation with a minor, or sexual penetration with a minor, as specified, from having to automatically register as a sex offender,” if they were no more than 10 years older than the minor.”

This same standard already applied to traditional sexual intercourse, the analysis said.

Although they are not automatically required to register as sex offenders, a judge can still order them to do so under certain circumstances, the analysis said.

SB 145 eliminates discrimination against people who are lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT), Beecroft said.

“They were automatically going on the registry because their sex acts were anal or oral sex,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to be discriminated against.”

The center posted a statement from California Coalition Against Sexual Assault on its Facebook page that said SB 145 does not change the age of consent for sex and does not apply to rape. It does, however, end discrimination against LBGT people, the coalition said.

Under the previous law, LBGT people could be placed on the sex registry for voluntary sex “even if a judge doesn’t think it’s appropriate, in situations where straight youth are not,” the coalition said.

SB 145 “does not legalize or weaken the penalties for any conduct. These offenses remain crimes punishable by law, and a judge can still choose to put the older party on the registry if the case warrants it,” State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who sponsored the bill, said on his website that the age of consent remains unchanged and it is illegal for anyone over 18 to have any type of sex with anyone 17 years old or younger. The law was designed to remove existing statutes’ discrimination toward LGBTQ youth, he said.

State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), who represents Kern County, opposed the bill.

“There are times as a Senator when I take great pride in my votes and actions. While I am disgusted by this legislation, I was proud to stand alongside my Senate Republican colleagues on behalf of families, parents, and children to vote against SB 145 and to help protect our children,” Grove posted on her Facebook page after the Senate vote. “This proposed law would make it so a 24-year-old could have sexual relations with a 15-year-old without being required to register as a sex offender.”

No Republicans supported the legislation in the House or Senate, said Grove.

The Women’s Center High Desert is a non-profit organization founded in 1978. It operates a 24-hour domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse hotlines and a 52-bed shelter for domestic violence victims. They help victims obtain restraining orders and provide counseling services.

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