SACRAMENTO – The ink had barely dried on Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature making Senate Bill 145 law last week when those opposed launched renewed attacks including death threats from the web by QAnon supporters on its legislative sponsor, San Francisco Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener.
The openly gay lawmaker had sought to bring California’s Sex Offender statues, which had not been given recent legislative revision to take into account sexual relations between persons outside of vaginal sex, other forms of sex, including that which could happen between LGBTQI individuals.
Right-wing groups including QAnon conspiracists immediately labeled the law as giving licence to pedophilia. Christian extremist Dr. Michael Brown wrote in several ‘Family Values’ Christian websites, “First, why would we want to protect an adult who commits a sexual act with a minor as young as 14? Second, how prevalent is adult-minor sex in the gay community? […] read more about the life of gay icon Harvey Milk. Note also that I’m not talking about pedophilia but rather so-called “consensual” acts between adults and teens as young as 14.”
The law actually defines: “[that] if an adult has voluntary penile-vaginal intercourse with a minor aged 14, 15, 16, or 17 and is up to 10 years older than the minor, the offense is not automatically registrable. Rather, a judge has discretion whether or not to place the defendant on the sex offender registry depending on the facts of the case. By contrast, if the act is oral sex, anal sex or sexual penetration, the court must place the defendant on the sex offender registry regardless of the facts of the crime and even in cases where the prosecutor and judge do not want to place the defendant on the registry.”
“This distinction in the law is irrational and discriminatory towards LGBTQ young people. For example, if a 19-year-old and 17-year-old couple have voluntary oral sex, the 19-year-old must be placed on the registry. But if it’s vaginal sex, the judge has discretion to place the older party on the registry or to keep them off. SB 145 ends this irrational distinction by treating all voluntary sex the same way that the law currently treats penile-vaginal intercourse,” Wiener’s spokesperson said to the Blade.
However, the fact is that the law does not legalize statutory rape. It also does not give California judges discretion to keep adults off the registry who victimized a child under the age of 14 or adults who engaged in sex with a teenager more than 10 years their junior.
Adding more controversy were detractors such as other state lawmakers including Senate Minority Leader Senator Shannon Grove, a Republican from the 16th district which is heavily conservative who called the bill disgusting and proceeded to use the [Hashtag] savethechildren which has been popularized by QAnon and right-wing extremists as a way to flag so-called online posts about pedophilia.
The resulting outrage generated angry tweets, comments, Instagram messages, death threats, doxxing, (the online publication of a person’s home address) and anti-semitic/homophobic memes.
In response to the attacks, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors introduced a resolution this week “condemning the antisemitic and homophobic attacks on Senator Scott Wiener and urging social media platforms to protect their users from hate speech.” Wiener represents the city in the state Senate.
“I stand unequivocally with Senator Wiener as he faces some of the worst online harassment I have ever seen,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “Antisemitism and homophobia are unacceptable and disgusting, and we must stand firm against this hatred. Senator Wiener is a fierce fighter for LGBTQ rights, and as a city, we strongly support him.”
“It is a righteous bill,” said Wiener, “It is supported by civil rights organizations and law enforcement and sexual assault survivor organizations. And it’s a bill that will address an inequity that is destroying the lives of LGBTQ people.”
Wiener told the Blade that he is grateful for the support in the face of the extremism.
“Sadly, we’re living in a time when- as with the Salem Witch Trials or the McCarthy era- leaders are using fear and mistrust to turn people against one another.
The Republican Party is stoking the flames of misinformation by sharing false and slanderous news stories, and it’s been terrifying. I’ve received over 1,00 death threats and tens of thousands of harassing comments and messages- often using hate speech. But I will never stop standing up for LGBTQ people, especially queer youth. We are fighting for equal rights and I will never give up this fight,” Wiener told the Blade.
SB 145 was also co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Equality California. The bill was signed into law by Newsom on Friday, September 11th and will begin to take effect January 1st, 2021.