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Connecticut House Bill 6638 would modernize the definition of "sexual orientation," but it would not protect child sex offenders.
Experts on sexual orientation law said that the proposed definition would not protect child sex offenders or people attracted to minors.
State legislatures have been making moves to change outdated language for "sexual orientation" in current anti-discrimination laws.
In April, the Minnesota House passed a bill updating the definition of "sexual orientation" in the state’s human rights act, and the Connecticut House passed a similar bill May 9.
But a post on social media claims these bills would lead to the codified acceptance of sex offender behavior. A May 21 Instagram post showed a screenshot of an article with the headline, "Connecticut follows Minnesota in first step to normalize pedophilia."
The post copied text from a May 17 HotAir.com article that said the bill would lay the groundwork for "including pedophilia as a state-recognized sexual orientation worthy of protection."
The article said that pedophilic acts would still be illegal, but claimed that being "minor attracted" may entitle a person to special state protections, including those against discrimination on employment and housing.
The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
We examined the bill and consulted experts on sexual orientation law, and found this claim baseless.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, the state is one of eight with language that explicitly excludes criminalized behavior from the definition of sexual orientation.
Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law currently defines sexual orientation as "having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference," and explicitly excludes behavior that would constitute a sex offense.
The bill would define sexual orientation as "a person’s identity in relation to the gender or genders to which they are romantically, emotionally, or sexually attracted, including any identity that a person may have previously expressed or is perceived by another person to hold."
A report by the Judiciary Committee said the bill aims to modernize the definition of "sexual orientation, which now dates to 1991. It contains "outdated" terminology of "preference" in connection to heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, and refers to the state’s penal code regarding sex offenses, linking criminal behavior to sexual orientation.
"By stating that it excludes behaviors which constitute violations of that chapter, the definition plays into long-standing erroneous and offensive stereotypes connecting homosexuality and bisexuality to criminal behavior," said Tanya Hughes, executive director of the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, in a testimony on the bill.
Jess Zaccagnino, policy counsel for ACLU Connecticut, testified that the existing definition also fails to recognize "the wide variety of sexualities" including asexuality and pansexuality.
Removing the provision that excludes criminalized sexual behavior would not make it illegal to discriminate against people attracted to minors. Brian Soucek, a law professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law, said the proposed language clearly covers gender-based attraction.
"There is (absolutely) no textual support for the notion that age-based attraction would be a protected class under the bill, and it is unimaginable that a court in the United States would ever read this language to protect pedophiles or anyone else engaged in criminal activity," Soucek said.
David B. Cruz, a constitutional law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, said the current language does not protect people from discrimination based on age-based attraction, so the provision excluding behavior constituting sex offenses was unnecessary.
He said the bill’s proposed definition of sexual orientation that is based on gender-based attraction "does not offer any antidiscrimination protections based on raping people, sexually assaulting/having nonconsensual sex with them, etc., nor does it protect against discrimination based on someone’s liking to do such things."
"This doesn’t leave it up to courts to interpret in ways that should worry anyone," Cruz said. "Paying even modest attention to the bill’s definitions should make it clear beyond doubt that it will not be the source of protections based upon the age of people to whom one is attracted or with whom one has sex."
We previously debunked the claim that the Minnesota bill would make it "illegal to discriminate against child rapists."
We rate this claim False.
Instagram post, May 21, 2023
HotAir, Connecticut follows Minnesota in first step to normalize pedophilia, May 17, 2023
PolitiFact, Minnesota bill does not create a protected class for child sex offenders, May 3, 2023
Connecticut House of Representatives House Bill 6638
ACLU Connecticut, Written Testimony Supporting House Bill 6638, An Act Revising the State’s Antidiscrimination Statutes, accessed May 22, 2023
Connecticut Statutes, accessed May 22, 2023
Judiciary Committee Joint Favorable Report, accessed May 22, 2023
CHRO Testimony Regarding HB 6638 – AA Revising the State’s Antidiscrimination Statutes, accessed May 22, 2023
Connecticut Network, Judiciary Committee March 3rd Public Hearing
Email interview, Brian Soucek, professor of law at University of California, Davis School of Law, May 22, 2023
Email interview, David B. Cruz, Newton Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, May 22, 2023
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