Three California lawmakers vowed separately Friday to eliminate a legal disparity that allowed a man to escape a rape conviction in Los Angeles County this week because the victim was not married.
Assemblymen Jimmy Gomez, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and state Sen. Noreen Evans moved quickly in the wake of a state appellate court decision that derailed a rape conviction, at least temporarily.
Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris vowed to work with the Legislature on the issue, saying "the evidence is clear that this case involved a nonconsensual assault that fits within the general understanding of what constitutes rape."
Lawmakers are targeting the issue after a state appeals court overturned the conviction of Julio Morales, who walked into the bedroom of a sleeping woman and began having intercourse after her boyfriend walked out, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.
When the woman realized that Morales was not her boyfriend, she screamed and resisted, the Times said.
Gomez, D-Los Angeles, told The Bee today that he has asked the legislative counsel's office to draft language to eliminate that loophole. He also has begun reaching out to law enforcement and to women's groups for suggestions, aides said.
"Rape is rape, and we need to do something about this," Gomez said.
Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, said he will introduce legislation to solve the problem by expanding the definition of rape to include cases where a perpetrator deceives a victim into sexual activity by impersonating the person's boyfriend or girlfriend.
"Californians are justifiably outraged by this court ruling, and it is important that the Legislature join together to close whatever loopholes may exist in the law and uphold justice for rape victims," Achadjian said in a prepared statement.
Evans, D-Santa Rosa, plans to reword the penal code statute to cover cases involving a "sexually intimate partner," which would include domestic partners and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender lovers.
"Having sex with an unconscious person is rape -- period," Evans said in a written statement Friday.
Gomez said he does not have a specific proposal but has begun the process of devising one.
In overturning Morales' conviction Wednesday, the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal urged the Legislature to alter the 1870s law that prompted their ruling. Morales' case was returned to lower courts for retrial.
Of Morales, the apellate court said:
"Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes."
Updated at 2 p.m. Friday to include a statement by Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris and to say that state Sen. Noreen Evans plans to introduce legislation.