NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 13, 2005

As a sop to those worried about vigilantism, lawmakers included a provision against housing discrimination in California's version of Megan's Law. Consequently, child molesters and rapists are now a protected class in California, says Catherine Seipp, a columnist for National Review Online and the Independent Women's Forum.

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 making this registry available to the public. But with the provision against housing discrimination, California landlords face a serious Catch-22, says Seipp:

  • California landlords are banned from using the Megan's Law database to decline renting their properties to sex offenders and they are not even allowed to warn other tenets that these paroled criminals are now their neighbors.
  • If they refuse to rent their property to a sex offender, they can be fined $25,000 for housing discrimination.
  • But if they do not inform their other tenets, they can be sued for failing to protect them against a known danger.

Last April, the California State Assembly's Public Safety Committee stalled a bill designed to fix this loophole.

Source: Catherine Seipp, "The Sex-Offender Lobby," Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2005.

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