The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that adults convicted of engaging in unforced oral sex with minors must register as sex offenders, while those guilty of sexual intercourse with minors may not have to.
The Los Angeles Times reports that in the 5-2 ruling, which overturned a 9-year-old precedent, the two dissenting justices said it would treat gays and lesbians more harshly than heterosexuals.
The decision overturned the court’s 2006 precedent that found the distinction was discriminatory and a relic of a different era.
Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, joined by Justice Goodwin Liu, said the distinction stemmed from a period of “irrational homophobia” and would continue to affect gay people in “a differentially harsh way.”
Oral sex was historically considered more problematic under the law because “it was regarded as unnatural and perverted and was associated with homosexuals,” she said.
Thursday’s ruling reinstates “a scheme that had a disproportionately adverse effect on gay and lesbian youth and unnecessarily saddled nonpredatory offenders of either sexual orientation with the stigma and restricted liberties attendant on sex offender registration,” Werdegar wrote.
An attorney who represented the defendant in the case, said she would ask the court to reconsider now that two new justices appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown have joined the court. One justice in the majority retired this month, and the fifth vote in Thursday’s ruling came from a Court of Appeal justice who was filling a vacancy.