“Fake news” has been all the rage in recent weeks as Clintonistas and progressives more generally search for any reason why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump other than she was a horrible candidate.
The charge is, of course, horse manure for any number of reasons, but I’m going to level it here at a mendacious, tendentious article published in The Washington Examiner and written by Travis Allen, a California Republican Assemblyman. To wit:
No, California did not just legalize child prostitution.
If you’re like me and did a “WTF?” head-shake at the very idea that buying sex from a minor is now just groovy here, here’s a graphic of the headline, in case The Examiner changes it:
And here’s a quote from the article:
Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California. Yes, you read that right.
SB 1322 bars law enforcement from arresting sex workers who are under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or loitering with the intent to do so. So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution.
This is, to put it kindly (and remembering this is a family show), ninety-five percent wrong and just right enough to mislead a lot of people.
Let’s do some digging, shall we? First, here is an excerpt of a press release (1) from Senator Holly Mitchell (D), the author of the bill:
The Governor has signed into law legislation that deems persons under the age of 18 who might previously have been charged with criminal prostitution as victims of sex trafficking, eligible for treatment rather than prosecution.
“The law is supposed to protect vulnerable children from adult abuse, yet we brand kids enmeshed in sex-for-pay with a scarlet ‘P’ and leave them subject to shame and prosecution,” said State Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who introduced SB 1322. “This is our opportunity to do what we say is right in cases of sex trafficking: stop the exploiters and help the exploited.”
When it comes to the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), the victims are criminalized under California law, often sent to juvenile hall and tagged with a rap sheet for prostitution.
So, Mitchell claims the bill treats child prostitutes as victims, rather than criminals. Regardless of Mr. Allen’s claims, this is not the same as legalizing child prostitution.
But a press release can be just as misleading as a news article, so let’s look at the bill’s actual text. Senate Bill 1322 (SB 1322) amends Section 647 of the California Penal Code. The relevant paragraphs are 647 (a) and 647 (b)(1) and (b)(2). I quote them here in full:
SECTION 1. Section 647 of the Penal Code is amended to read:
647. Except as provided in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) and subdivision (l), every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor:
(a) Who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.
(b) (1) Who solicits or who agrees to engage in or who engages in any act of prostitution. A person agrees to engage in an act of prostitution when, with specific intent to so engage, he or she manifests an acceptance of an offer or solicitation to so engage, regardless of whether the offer or solicitation was made by a person who also possessed the specific intent to engage in prostitution. No agreement to engage in an act of prostitution shall constitute a violation of this subdivision unless some act, in addition to the agreement, is done within this state in furtherance of the commission of an act of prostitution by the person agreeing to engage in that act. As used in this subdivision, “prostitution” includes any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), this subdivision does not apply to a child under 18 years of age who is alleged to have engaged in conduct to receive money or other consideration that would, if committed by an adult, violate this subdivision. A commercially exploited child under this paragraph may be adjudged a dependent child of the court pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code and may be taken into temporary custody pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 305 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, if the conditions allowing temporary custody without warrant are met.
Read it carefully:
- Paragraph (a) discusses anyone who in a public place tries to get another to have sex, including for pay. In other words, it includes a potential John making an offer.
- Paragraph (b)(1) criminalizes the person the person who offers sex in return for money – the prostitute.
- Paragraph (b)(2) removes the criminal penalties for prostitutes under 18, but makes them a dependent of the courts so that they can get help to escape that life, not a juvenile record. They can be taken into custody. They are not let off to do it again, they are not “free to have sex in exchange for money.”
What SB 1322 emphatically does not do is decriminalize perverts offering to pay for sex with a minor –paragraph (a)– or the prostitutes’ pimps. It does not decriminalize statutory rape, which is what sex with a minor prostitute would constitute. Those are still crimes in California. To state it plainly:
Child prostitution is still a crime in California.
One can debate whether Mitchell’s approach is the right one and whether the bill is prudent, but to say it legalizes something as horrible as child prostitution is “fake news” that defames Senator Mitchell and Governor Brown, and is insulting to California and its people. The Washington Examiner should at a minimum change the headline or, preferably, retract the article. Assemblyman Allen owes his colleague in the state senate an apology for insulting her and to the people of his district for embarrassing them.
There’s a lot wrong with my home state, but legalizing child sex is not one of them.
PS: To say 2016 has been a weird year is by now a cliche. Whether in politics or pop culture, this year has seen many saddening, maddening, and just plain weird occurrences.
But, here we go again. I’m defending California Democrats, the people running this state into the ground, Governor Jerry Brown, and my state senator, Holly Mitchell, a down-the-line progressive whom I’d never vote for. And I’m criticizing a California Republican.
Like I said, 2016 has been weird, man.
Relevant Link: The Blaze also states the truth.
UPDATE: Linked at Red State.
(1) Yeah, the headline for the press release says there is “no such thing as a child prostitute.” This is as much bunkum as Allen’s article. Selling sex in return for consideration makes one a prostitute, whether willing or not and whether adult or minor. This kind of avoidance of the truth helps no one.