An effort by state Sen. Scott Wiener to reform sex offender registration laws and ensure equality for the LGBTQ community has drawn harassment from conspiracy theorists.
Wiener, who represents San Francisco, said at a news conference Thursday that the QAnon community has claimed the bill, Senate Bill 145, would protect pedophiles, and even accused him of being a pedophile himself.
The bill was introduced by Wiener last year to end what he and other advocates said was a blatant discrimination against LGBTQ youth regarding California’s sex offender registry. It has passed the Senate and is currently making its way through the Assembly.
Under existing law, if a teenager aged between 14 and 17 voluntarily has vaginal intercourse with a partner within 10 years of the person’s age, the judge decides whether the offender who violated statutory rape laws is required to register as sex offenders, based on the facts of the case. On the other hand, current law mandates sex offender registration without the judge’s discretion in the cases involving oral, anal and digital intercourse.
“It makes no sense. It disproportionately impacts LGBTQ people because LGBTQ people are far less likely to be engaging in penile, vaginal intercourse,” Wiener said.
SB 145 would mandate voluntary sex acts including oral, anal and digital intercourse be treated the same. Judges would be able to decide whether an offender is required to register as a sex offender based on the facts of the case. And the bill does not apply to intercourse of any kind with minors who are 13 years-old or younger.
But an onslaught of hateful comments and messages on social media began to surface earlier this month. People have lobbed anti-semitic and homophobic remarks, and Wiener said he received death threats as recently as Wednesday.
Misinformation on the legislation has run amok on social media and blogs. Wiener pointed to an article about the bill published Thursday on InfoWars, a website founded by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as particularly “slanderous” and “false.”
Meanwhile, the bill has garnered support from various law enforcement, civil rights and sexual assault survivors advocates.
“I want to thank Senator Wiener for standing strong against the attacks that he has faced in recent weeks,” said Rick Chavez Zbur, executive director of civil rights organization Equality California, which is a co-sponsor of the bill. “Working with him over the last four years, I’ve seen him bravely take on bold [and] important issues regardless of the political or personal consequences.”