California Lawmakers Vote To Decriminalize Sex With Minors

Lawmakers in California a seeking to decriminalize sex with minors as part of a broader effort to “distigmatize pedophilia” and make the state “more inclusive to sexual minorities.”

A bill that was originally introduced to make soliciting a child for sex a felony has been radically altered and subverted by Democrats during the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee on July 2.

Lawmakers took issue with Senate Bill 1414, authored by Republican Sen. Shannon Grove, which “aims to increase penalties for those who purchase children for sex,” her office said in a press release. reports: It was first amended in the Senate to exclude 16- and 17-year-old victims, make the crime a “wobbler”—where prosecutors can charge offenders with a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances—and require a 10-year age gap between the offender and the victim for those convicted to register as a sex offender.

Ms. Grove considered the changes to be “hostile” and made without her approval, noting that some members of both parties disagreed with those amendments.

In response to the changes, Democratic Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman said, “I’m done with us protecting people who would buy and abuse our children,” and she urged her colleagues to rethink their positions.

At Ms. Grove’s request, Assemblyman Juan Alanis—vice-chair of the public safety committee—made a motion at the July 2 hearing to remove the prior amendments, but the attempt failed.

The chair of the committee, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, then moved to make soliciting a minor over 15 a felony if the individual is a victim of human trafficking, and the motion was approved by the committee.

In a joint press release with Sen. Aisha Wahab, chair of the Senate’s Public Safety Committee, published hours before the hearing, they suggested their efforts will help protect minors and address concerns with the prior amendments.

“Our joint proposal will ensure justice for the children and teenagers targeted by these criminals, and we will succeed where years of previous attempts at similar legislation failed,” the lawmakers said. “Our goal is to always prioritize victims and punish predators, especially those who commit sexual crimes against children.”

The bill passed after being amended, but the author expressed a need to do more to protect children.

“I’m glad that we’re moving the bill forward, and I look forward to having more conversations to protect 16- and 17-year-olds,” Ms. Grove told The Epoch Times July 2 after the hearing. “But I am disappointed that they didn’t take the amendments for all minors to be protected.”

Ms. Grove said she will continue to pursue stiffer charges for those soliciting minors for sex.

Some testifying in opposition to the bill argued during the hearing that stiffer penalties for offenders are ineffective and could traumatize those who are sentenced to prison.

Others countered that lifelong trauma is experienced by children who are bought and sold for sex.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, public safety committee member, told The Epoch Times after the hearing that the bill should have been restored to its original language but noted that progress was made by passing the proposal.

“I’m hurt by it, I’m frustrated by it, but at least we moved something,” Mr. Lackey said.

One law enforcement expert—who retired with 30 years of experience from the Los Angeles Police Department—said the need to prove that minors older than 15 were sexually trafficked to charge solicitors with a felony is problematic.

“This is kind of smoke and mirrors,” Stephany Powell, senior advisor on law enforcement and policy for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation—a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C.—told The Epoch Times. “Oftentimes 16- and 17-year-olds don’t even self-identify as sex trafficking victims, and proving that they were is going to be a problem.”

She said the dynamics of the prostitution trade—where older men are often involved in managing young children and profiting from selling access to their bodies—make it especially difficult for victims to talk about what happened to them.

“They’re going to have to tell on their pimps, and we know that oftentimes pimps are gang members,” Ms. Powell said. “This puts them in danger and revictimizes them.”

Having passed the safety committee, SB 1414 will next be heard by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on a date yet to be determined. The Legislature’s summer recess begins July 4, with lawmakers returning Aug. 5.

Another bill related to child prostitution—Assembly Bill 2419, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gipson to expand search warrants to investigate such cases—was pulled by the author from a hearing by the Senate’s Public Safety Committee July 2. It is unclear why the bill was pulled or if it will be heard later.

Mr. Gipson declined to comment on the decision.

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