California lawmakers have passed a bill intended to fix a legal disparity that treats gay sex offences more severely than straight ones, despite far-right anger and death threats.
Gay Democratic lawmaker Scott Wiener was threatened with “public execution” after far-right conspiracy theorists latched onto his bill, SB 145, which seeks to close a loophole in California’s sexual offence laws.
Under current 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 people 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.
Wiener’s bill to fix the issue 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 lawmakers pass bill to end sex offence disparity.
Despite attacks for simply trying to ensure existing laws apply equally to everyone, the bill cleared the California legislature on Monday (August 31), the last day of the legislative session.
It passed the California assembly by a vote of 41 to 18, before being approved by a vote of 23 to 10 in the state senate.
Despite merely seeking to apply the existing law for straight people to gay people, the bill faced opposition in the legislature, including from some Democrats.
It will now head to the desk of the state’s governor Gavin Newsom, who has until the end of September to sign it.
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In a Facebook post, Wiener said the bill would “end discrimination against LGBTQ young people on the sex offender registry”.
He added: “Currently, these youth are forced onto the registry for consensual sex — even if a judge doesn’t think it’s appropriate — in situations where straight youth are not. This discrimination destroys lives.”
Scott Wiener faced ‘violent, homophobic, antisemitic attacks’ from far-right QAnon trolls.
Ahead of the vote, an online pile-on against Wiener, which disturbingly mirrors far-right smear tactics against other gay politicians worldwide, saw to a stream of death threats and harassment towards the lawmaker.
One message received by Wiener reads: “You’re dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. I’ll publicly execute you. I’m gonna embarrass you. Paedophile.” Another threatens: “I’ll come cut your head off and deliver it to your mom if you even considering introducing your ‘bill’. Got it?”
In a Facebook post in August, Wiener wrote: “I’ve been the target of violent, homophobic, antisemitic attacks from the QAnon/anti-vax right, including death threats.
“I have thick skin — politics has a way of giving you that — but this has been scary, particularly with the assassination of a federal judge’s son last week.
“There is so much misinformation about SB 145 — similar to misinformation about COVID, vaccines, masks, and the like — and it’s hard to track where it starts. Those who think homophobia and antisemitism are over are not paying attention.”