The Sex-Offender Lobby


October 6, 2005, 09:57 AM
(All bold print my doing --jfruser)
The Sex-Offender Lobby
Ideologues block reform of Megan's Law.

Thursday, October 6, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES--Did you know that in California, child molesters and rapists are a protected class? It's true. Not only are California landlords banned from using the state's Megan's Law database to decline renting their properties to sex offenders, they're not even allowed to warn other tenants that these paroled criminals are now their neighbors. If they do the first, they can be fined $25,000 for housing discrimination. But if they don't do the second, they can be sued for failing to protect tenants against a known danger.

Landlords are caught between a rock, a hard place and the California State Assembly's Public Safety Committee, which last April stalled a bill designed to fix the Catch-22. The California Apartment Association is planning a grassroots effort to revive the bill, written by Assembly member Nicole Parra (D., Bakersfield), when the legislature reconvenes in January. Ms. Parra got the California Megan's Law registry online a year ago; before that, it was only available at police stations.

The Megan's Law movement began in New Jersey in 1994, after a seven-year-old girl there was murdered by a paroled child molester who'd moved in across the street. Megan's Laws differ from state to state, but in general they require law enforcement to maintain a registry of convicted sex offenders living in the area and make this registry available to the public.

The ACLU has fought Megan's Laws in every state but never succeeded in getting one declared unconstitutional; but as a sop to those worried about vigilantism, California's version included the provision against housing discrimination. The reform measure, AB 438, would specify that sex offenders are not a protected class. It would also order that the addresses of registered sex offenders--which are often outdated--be kept current online. As it stands, renters in an apartment formerly occupied by a sex offender run the risk of becoming false suspects.

Nevertheless, the ACLU opposes AB 438, and Assembly members Mervyn Dymally (D., Compton), Jackie Goldberg (D., L.A.) and committee chair Mark Leno (D., San Francisco) all voted no. For representatives serving on a public safety committee, these three seem oddly unconcerned with public safety. Mr. Dymally lately has been arguing that it's wrong to deny illegal immigrants driver's licenses, but this is probably just the latest blip in a long career of entitlement politics. Ms. Goldberg and Mr. Leno, however, seem to have a particular habit of positioning themselves against anyone trying to promote an orderly civic environment in California.

When she was on the Los Angeles City Council in the '90s, Ms. Goldberg alienated even fellow liberals by regularly siding with vagrants and bar patrons against residents. "We can thank Jackie for that," a neighbor remarked to me irritably one morning, as I walked the dog around used condoms littering the side street near a gay bar.

Others complained about a major street nearby that had been taken over by people who lived in their cars and used the curbside area as an outdoor latrine. "Jackie's solution was to put in Porta-potties," recalls syndicated political columnist Jill Stewart, who's long been a thorn in Ms. Goldberg's side. "She was always big on bringing in homeless people where no one wanted them."

Mark Leno, best known as the author of California's recently vetoed gay-marriage bill, this summer criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to toughen California laws against sex offenders. Proposed new restrictions, which may be on the ballot next year, include keeping rapists and child molesters farther away from schools and parks, and requiring some to wear electronic monitoring bracelets.

"It doesn't tell you what they're doing," Mr. Leno complained to the San Jose Mercury News about the tracking devices. Like many who consider worries about pedophiles overblown, Mr. Leno pointed out that most such offenses are from people the victim knows. True. Such concern would seem more sincere, however, if Mr. Leno hadn't been the only Public Safety Committee member to vote against a bill closing loopholes in the treatment of incestuous child molesters.

When Gov. Schwarzenegger suggested, in a shrugging sort of way, that the Democrats opposing the toughened sex-crime laws he backs are less concerned with public safety than Republicans, Mr. Leno told the Sacramento Bee that the governor's attitude was "egregious."

Property manager Scott Monroe, on the other hand, finds the special privileges accorded to sex offenders in California's Megan's Law just as egregious. "Right now sex offenders have to keep a certain distance from schools and day-care centers, but they can share a common wall with children in an apartment building."

Mr. Monroe, who owns a San Bernardino County mobile-home park where many elderly single women live, told the committee about his unnerving experience sitting across the table from a paroled rapist tenant covered with tattoos, whom other tenants had discovered through the Megan's Law Web site and wanted gone.

"I couldn't do anything, but I couldn't not do anything," said Mr. Monroe. Fortunately, he didn't have to risk a lawsuit for evicting (or not evicting) the tenant--the guy accepted $250 to move out.

Mr. Monroe was one of those who testified in favor of AB 438 to the Public Safety Committee. "It was shocking," he recalls. Mr. Leno "basically said the gay community has had to fight for its rights for so long, he didn't want to put sex offenders through the same thing." Mr. Leno doesn't remember it that way. "I would not have proactively brought up the gay community and sex offenders. I'll be gracious and say there's been a misunderstanding." In any case, the gay community has long battled to persuade mainstream America to think of them as solid citizens rather than as deviants. That battle has been mostly won, and rightly so. How odd for a gay leader to sabotage that by making common cause with child molesters and rapists.

Megan's Law isn't perfect. But lawmakers who reflexively fight against it (or against worthwhile fixes) aren't exactly part of the solution.

Ms. Seipp, a columnist for National Review Online and the Independent Women's Forum, is the author of a blog,

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October 6, 2005, 10:09 AM
Well, if our beloved gov't wouldn't make things like mooning a 'sex offense', then there wouldn't be a need to fight for checks & balances. And better yet, wouldn't be a basis to defend the selective-rights-protective ACLU. But they have. And there is.

October 6, 2005, 02:21 PM
Leno and Goldberg are never going to come down hard on sex offenders. That would roil their constituencies.

ACLU capo Anthony Romero has his own, excuse the expression, crusade.

October 6, 2005, 02:27 PM
Mervyn Dymally (D., Compton), Jackie Goldberg (D., L.A.) and committee chair Mark Leno (D., San Francisco)
The reason they are mentioned here is because they're all on the Public Safety Committe of the CA-state Assembly. Basically any bill that has something to do with public safety has to go through them. That includes gun bills, and would obviously include a CA CCW bill for instance.

Until we get these crazies out of the assembly, CA is never going to have constitutional gun laws.


October 6, 2005, 03:38 PM
And "public safety" has become the rallying cry for closet fascism.

Standing Wolf
October 6, 2005, 04:45 PM
Until we get these crazies out of the assembly, CA is never going to have constitutional gun laws.

Unfortunately, crazies in the government of the People's Republic of California are a lot like cockroaches: there's just no end of them.

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