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Church Sex Abuse Victims Cheer Bill Heading To Gov. Brown's Desk

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Victims of church sex abuse may get more time to sue religious organizations and those who abused them under a bill heading to the governor's desk.

"It's very exciting and we are very hopeful."

Kathleen Conti is pleased the senate passed SB131. The Stockton woman says she was abused by a Jehovah's Witness leader when she was a teenager, and a family member also became a victim.

"The only way you are going to stop pedophiles is to identify them and warn people—allow us as parents to know who they are within our congregations. Otherwise, how do we know? How can we protect other children."

Lawmakers say the bill corrects a Supreme Court case that, because the statute of limitations had been reached, denied a narrow group of child sex-abuse victims the right sue religious organizations, private and nonprofit groups that employed their abusers.

"If we didn't do it, the law would still be invalid and the people would waiting on the legislature to see if we wanted to correct the law," said Sen. Jim Beall.

Under the proposed law, victims over the age of 26 in 2003 will have a chance to file lawsuits during a one-year period.

In a statement, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said, "Institutions should and must be held accountable when they know about abuse, do nothing to stop it, and allow abusers to move on and target other innocent children. The passage of SB 131 is the first step in a long civil rights battle for all victims of child sexual abuse."

It's not clear how the proposed bill would affect the Diocese of Stockton, which is considering bankruptcy after paying out millions of dollars to settle child sex-abuse lawsuits.

The bill passed the Senate on Friday and it's on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

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