CLAIM: California just passed SB 145, a bill that would end felonies for child rape and legalize pedophilia in the state.
THE FACTS: SB 145, which has passed the California legislature and awaits the governor’s signature, would not legalize pedophilia.
It would only give judges expanded discretion to determine whether an adult must register as a sex offender. Under current law, judges can make that decision in cases of voluntary, but illegal, vaginal sex with a minor age 14 to 17 and an adult within 10 years of the minor’s age. SB 145 would expand that law to include voluntary oral and anal sex within the same age parameters. The bill would not apply to any minor under the age of 14, nor would it apply to any age gap larger than 10 years. It also would not apply if either party claims the sex was involuntary.
Advocates say the bill makes existing California law more inclusive for the LGBTQ community. The bill has been widely condemned by social media users falsely claiming it would legalize pedophilia. “PEDOPHILIA is now LEGAL in CALIFORNIA,” read a Facebook post viewed more than 8 million times. “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. This is unbelievable California!”
Posts making such claims fundamentally misrepresent what SB 145 does, according to the bill’s authors and outside experts. Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, called the claims “hogwash” in an interview with The Associated Press. “The accusation that it somehow allows pedophilia is simply not true,” Levinson said. Also, contrary to false posts on social media, the bill would not apply when a minor is under the age of 14, when the age gap is larger than 10 years, or when either party says the sex was not consensual.
If passed, the bill would “bring much-needed parity” to California sex offender registration law, according to a statement from Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who drafted the bill. “This bill allows judges and prosecutors to evaluate cases involving consensual sex acts between young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, on an individual basis,” the statement said. The bill did face opposition in the legislature by some lawmakers, including Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who said she thought the 10-year age gap was too broad. The bill has passed both houses of the California legislature and awaits a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom.