Well, California Gov. Jerry Brown is at it again, folks. This time, he has signed a bill downgrading the crime of deliberately exposing a sexual partner to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor.
This new bill comes on the heels of the prosecution of Daryll Rowe (26, Scotland), who is HIV-positive and purposefully infected multiple sexual partners met through Grindr, by insisting on “unprotected sex” or using perforated condoms.
Rowe allegedly sent “mocking text messages” to his partners after sex, boasting only after the fact that he was HIV positive.
“Maybe you have the fever. I came inside you and I have HIV LOL. Oops!” Rowe texted to one partner.
“I ripped the condom. You’re so stupid. You didn’t even know,” he reportedly said to another.
Rowe is now facing charges of “infecting four men with the virus and attempting to infect a further six.” In the United Kingdom, this is considered “Grievous Bodily Harm,” a crime which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Now, here in the states, Senate bill 239 (SB 239), will go into effect in California on Jan. 1, 2018. The ACLU, which cosponsored SB 239, described the new measure as “modernizing” California HIV laws and praised Governor Jerry Brown for reforming “outdated laws that unfairly criminalized and stigmatized people living with HIV.”
“California’s outdated and draconian HIV criminal laws have disproportionately harmed people of color and transgender women,” said Melissa Goodman, LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project Director with the ACLU of Southern California.
“With the enactment of this law, our laws will now become more fair, less discriminatory, and will promote treatment and prevention rather than criminalization,” she said.
Additionally, Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said that SB 239 “is not only fair, but it’s good public health,” and will be “good for all Californians.”
“With his signature, Governor Brown has moved California’s archaic HIV laws out of the 1980s and into the 21st century,” Zbur said.
However, Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Jeff Stone and Sen. Joel Anderson voted against the bill, arguing it puts the public at risk.
“I’m of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Anderson said during the floor debate.
“It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this,” Anderson said.
Nevertheless, this is where we are now. A time in which a new law effectively downgrades the intentional transmission of the HIV virus to a mere misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than 6 months if the perpetrator acts with the specific intent to transmit.
How messed up it that? Utterly despicable if you ask me. But that’s California for you.