Dear Members and Advocates,
Something good was spun so horribly wrong that it’s worthy of being the first thing we mention in this week’s update. California State Senator Scott Wiener set out to eliminate a significant disparity in the state’s sex offender registration laws that discriminated against LGBTQ youth. The way the law exists, a judge has some discretion whether to require registration in certain “Romeo and Juliet”/Statutory Rape cases. If the sexual conduct was consensual, the participant was between 14 and 17 years old and the adult was less than 10 years older, a judge could examine the circumstances and decide whether the adult would have to register or not.
The catch was that the law, as it is written, identified the sexual conduct in question as “vaginal intercourse”. That offers relief in situations where the couple consists of a male and female, but what happens when the couple consists of two males and there’s no vagina involved? If a gay couple, a 17 year old and an 18 year old, engaged in consensual sexual conduct, a judge would have no choice but to order the 18 year old to register as a sex offender.
To resolve a disparity that would criminalize gay sex in situations where heterosexual sex could get a pass from registration, Senator Wiener, sponsored SB145 to add oral and anal intercourse to the language of the existing statute. To be clear, the bill did not legalize the conduct (neither does the current statute legalize vaginal intercourse), it just gave the judge the discretion to evaluate the situation and determine whether it warranted the additional sanction of sex offender registration or not.
Essentially, it gave the judge discretion to act in situations involving same sex couples the same way she or he could with heterosexual couples. But instead of seeing this as a great step in creating equality, many saw it as an opportunity to bash the Senator and spin the headlines in a way that dumps on two disfavored groups. The anti-discrimination bill was described as “controversial” and quickly headlines reported that the Senator’s bill “promoted pedophilia” or legalized sex with minors.
In reality, the bill was hardly controversial as it is completely consistent with the direction our country has been moving in the past decade. It also did not promote pedophilia or legalize sex with minors, just like the existing law didn’t do that for heterosexual couples. Even though reputable news outlets responded with fact-check stories attempting to set the record straight, Senator Wiener received a constant barrage of harassment on social media and even death threats.
Last week SB145 passed both houses (barely) and is now on its way to the Governor, who will either sign it into law or veto it. With all the misinformation and false reporting out there, we sincerely hope the Governor will take the time to educate himself on what this bill actually does and then exhibit the political courage to sign it into law.
Yesterday, Lisa Anne Zilney (speaker for our October Monthly Membership meeting) wrote a piece for Medium.com which hit the nail on the head. She explained that most Americans don’t care about the truth or whether a law does not empirically decrease sexual violence. They hear “sex offender” and it elicits a visceral response that ignores any facts and starts the flow of vindictive and hateful comments. And God forbid someone tries to present the true statistics it’s guilt by association. They are instantly viewed as a “defender of child predators” or “pedophile lover” and they also get dumped on. Any article or action that seeks to present the truth about the registry, generates “replies [containing] the same hate-spewing, knee-jerk reactions fueled by misinformation. But the interesting part was that people didn’t want to read the research, they just emotionally reacted.”
We don’t want people like Senator Scott Wiener And Lisa Anne Zilney to have to think twice before sponsoring important bills or doing important research on sex crime legislation because they are afraid they will be attacked in social media or attacked physically. We need to do all we can to encourage their work by posting supportive comments. Our media committee is already doing that, but we need to expand this effort on a significant scale. When we post a link to a story, we encourage you to go to the original story and share your thoughts and comments at the source itself. I get that social media bans can prevent us from having access in some cases, such as Facebook Comments (that’s another fight we will eventually need to get to), but our Internet Identifier Case was successful in not requiring registration for comments on news stories, so please take advantage of that victory and exercise your right to speak out!
We also need to keep bringing these legal challenges. Remember, we have until the end of this month to meet the matching goal in our Non-registrant Collateral Consequences Challenge. This suit will be brought on behalf of our children, parents, spouses, friends, employers, roommates and others who are forced to have their homes flagged by a red dot on a map, cars listed on a registry, and are targets of restrictions, ostracism and vigilantism because they are related to, employ or live with someone on the registry. We must get to $19,179.50 by September 30th in order to get our full matching pledge of $5,727.50 which will bring us to $25,000 and enable us to bring this challenge. As of 8/31 we are $2,928.60 short to get our full match.
In other good news, we also received another generous matching pledge. This time to our Out of State challenge! A member has agreed that when we hit $12,500, he will add $4,000, raising the total to $16,500 and when we hit $21,000 he will add another $4,000, bringing us to the $25,000 Goal!!!
In the meantime depositions have been taking place in the Ex Post Facto Case thanks to those who have contributed to make that case happen! Please do all you can to help all of us meet our goals by making a donation before the end of this month!!!
The Florida Action Committee
Sep 9 Wednesday at 7:00 pm ET. Do you want to be a County Coordinator? For current County Coordinators and members who want to become a County Coordinator for FAC. Dial 605-472-5596 Access 436675#. If unable to connect, text “Call Me” to 605-472-5596. You will receive a call-back, enter access code 436675# and be connected to the training meeting. If you are unable to attend and want to be participate in the training, contact [email protected].
Sep 10 Thursday. New member Orientation call. Dial 319-527-3487. All members welcome to join. Learn more about the organization, resources, family support and volunteer opportunities. If unable to connect, text “Call Me” to 319-527-3487 to receive a call-back and be connected to the conference.
Sep 14 Monday at 7:00pm ET (and every Monday in September) there is a standing meeting call for Brevard members (other members are always welcome). Our goal is to reach out to the rest of the registered citizens in Brevard County. If you are NOT on the Registry and wish to attend the next Brevard County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday Sep 15th, contact [email protected] for location; attendees and presenters are needed.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
As we dig deeper into the changes to SORNA and the independent registration obligations under state and federal law, we are becoming more concerned. Originally, we indicated that since Florida has implemented “SORNA on steroids” the federal obligations are not as…
This proposed rule was published on August 13, 2020. Written comments must be submitted on or before October 13, 2020 to: Regulations Docket Clerk, Office of Legal Policy, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Room 4234, Washington, DC 20530. To…
We are very excited to announce that University of Miami Law School Professor and attorney Tamara Rice Lave has joined the legal team representing the plaintiffs in Does v. Swearingen (the Ex Post Facto Plus case). Professor Lave is a graduate of the Stanford Law…