ACLU Scores Win for Gay Men Swept Up in CA Sex Offender Law
American Civil Liberties Union,
November 12, 1997
For Immediate Release
SACRAMENTO, CA -- A crucial but little known provision of the recently
enacted Sex Offender Registration Law will allow individuals convicted of consensual gay
sex under now-defunct criminal statutes to expunge their names from the states sex
offender registry. They will no longer be required to register as sex offenders or be
listed in Californias sex offender registry. Those already listed can request to be
deleted from the registry.
The change comes from language drafted by the ACLU and included in Assembly Bill 290
written by State Assembly member Barbara Alby, R-Fair Oaks, and signed by Governor Wilson
on October 8, 1997. The law -- which alters Californias interpretation of
Megans Law -- went into effect thirty days following the Governors signature.
"Gay men no longer face the indignity of having to undergo annual registration as
sex offenders, forced to submit fingerprints and photographs to the police like common
criminals," said Elizabeth Schroeder of the ACLU of Southern California.
"They will no longer live in fear that neighbors will shun them by mistakenly
lumping gays convicted under out-dated laws with felons convicted of child molestation and
rape," Schroeder added. "This law is long overdue; the state should, on its own,
have purged these records more than twenty years ago."
The ACLU was also able to eliminate from the list of registrable offenses in the bill,
individuals convicted under Penal Code Section 647(d) -- loitering around a public toilet
-- a provision historically used in sting operations targeting gay men.
Prior to the decriminalization of consensual gay sex in the mid-1970s, a number of men
were convicted and placed on Californias sex offender registry. The registry was
allowed to languish for a number of years. However, with the recent passage of
Megans Law, many of these individuals were contacted by the Department of Justice
and told that they, like those convicted of rape and child molestation, must also register
as convicted sex offenders and face possible community notification.
"This provision is especially important for gay men who have been unjustly
targeted by repressive laws for so many years," said Kelli Evans, staff attorney for
the ACLU of Northern California. "Although the laws under which these men were
convicted were struck down decades ago, the men were still in jeopardy of being
stigmatized as sex offenders. Hopefully, they will now be protected from being swept up by
the unduly broad brush of sex offender registration laws."
By July 1998, the state justice department will issue a report which will include the
number of people convicted for consensual gay sex before January 1, 1976, the number of
these individuals convicted for subsequent sex offenses, and the number of people who have
applied for relief from registration. This information will be used to purge the sex
An individual who wants to have his name removed from the list now can submit to the
justice department either official documentary evidence, such as court records or police
reports which demonstrate that the conviction was for conduct between consenting adults,
or submit a confidential declaration stating that the conviction was for conduct between
consenting adults. Because many of the convictions are more than two decades old, and
official records may no longer exist, the declaration must include the persons name,
address, telephone number, date of birth, and a summary of the circumstances leading to
the conviction, including the date of conviction and county in which it occurred.
If the justice department determines that the conviction was based on consensual
conduct between adults, within 60 days the DOJ shall notify the local law enforcement
agency that the person is no longer required to register (unless the person has other
convictions that require registration) and the local law enforcement agency must remove
the person from its registry within 30 days. If the justice department finds that the
information submitted is insufficient to justify removal from the sex offender registry,
an individual can appeal the decision to the superior court.
"The Department of Justice should have taken these individuals off the sex
registry list a very long time ago," said ACLU Legislative Director Francisco Lobaco,
who worked on the passage of the provision. "We expect this new law will facilitate
the process by which these innocent individuals can finally have their names removed from
the sex registry list."
Removing Names from the Registry
Individuals convicted of consensual gay sex who seek removal from the sex offender
registry can send a cover letter and official documentary evidence or confidential
declarations to: Criminal Justice Information & Analysis Sex and Arson Registration
Program P.O. Box 903387 Sacramento, CA 94203-3870
For information or to check on the status of requests, call the Sex Offender
Registration Unit 916-227-3288.
[Home] [News] [California]