Bill would not legalize pedophilia in California
CLAIM: California just passed SB 145, a bill that would end felonies for child rape and legalize pedophilia in the state.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. SB 145 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 FACTS: A California bill that would give judges discretion on sex offender registration in certain statutory rape cases involving anal and oral sex 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!”
“Dire, devastating news,” read another post widely shared on Facebook and Instagram. “How does this even happen?? Evil. That’s how. There will be no felonies for sex with a minor any longer in CA.”
These posts 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.
The bill has passed both houses of the California legislature and awaits a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom. If passed, it would not legalize pedophilia or end child rape felonies.
Instead, it would expand an existing California law involving statutory rape with vaginal sex to cover anal and oral sex too.
Currently in California, voluntary sex between a teenager age 14 to 17 and an adult within 10 years of their age is treated differently depending on the sex act. In cases of vaginal sex, the law allows a judge to decide whether or not the adult should have to register as a sex offender. In cases of anal and oral sex, the adult must register as a sex offender.
SB 145 would expand the law, giving judges discretion in cases of voluntary anal and oral sex between a teenager age 14 and 17 and an adult no more than 10 years older.
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 false posts spreading on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday echoed posts shared by conspiracy theory and QAnon social media accounts earlier in the summer, when the bill was being discussed in the state legislature.
QAnon is a right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy theory centered on unfounded beliefs of a so-called deep state plot against the president involving satanism and child sex trafficking.
In early August, when such posts emerged, state Sen. Scott Wiener received threatening messages using anti-gay slurs and calling him a pedophile for sponsoring SB 145, his office said.
“Despite massive, disgusting misinformation from the QAnon cult — including extreme death threats against me — we were able to pass SB 145 because it’s the right thing to do,” Wiener told the AP in a statement. “I’m grateful that my colleagues saw through the lies and understood that LGBTQ young people are having their lives destroyed simply for having consensual sex.”
Before the legislature passed the bill, some California lawmakers spoke out against it, including Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who said she thought the 10-year age gap was too broad.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536