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Court keeps sex offender registration ruling intact

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POSTED April 24, 2015 10:27 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court voted not to reconsider a ruling requiring mandatory lifetime sex offender registration for a particular sex crime.

The court’s 4-3 vote on Wednesday kept in place a decision that says anyone convicted of non-forcible oral copulation with a minor must register with police as a sex offender, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Registration would bar them from living near a school or park.

Retired Justice Marvin Baxter and an appeals court justice filling a vacancy wrote the original ruling in January. The two vacancies have since been filled by appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Leondra Kruger. Wednesday’s vote was among their first major actions, the Chronicle reported.

The two split their votes, keeping the ruling intact. Cuellar, a former Stanford law professor, voted to rehear the case. Kruger, a former attorney in President Obama’s Justice Department, voted against a rehearing.

The January ruling reinstated a 1947 California law. It was unusual because it reversed a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that said the 1947 law was discriminatory.

The 2006 opinion, written by former Justice Joyce Kennard, noted that another state law treats people convicted of non-forcible sexual intercourse with minors less harshly.

Kennard said the distinction between the two laws was arbitrary and appeared to be based on the fact that all oral sex, even between consenting adults, was a crime in California in 1947.

That changed when lawmakers legalized consensual gay sex acts in 1975.

In a dissent to the January ruling, Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar said the 1947 statute was “a relic of past homophobia and discarded ideas of sexual regulation.”

But Baxter countered that legislators had legitimate reasons for treating consensual intercourse with a minor less harshly than consensual oral copulation.

 

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