Fact Check: Did Anthony Brown stand alone against child victims of sexual abuse?

(Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
(Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

“He’s the only delegate that voted against [extending] the statute of limitations for children who are molested to go bring those cases in court.”

– Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) referring to votes by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) while a delegate representing Prince George’s County in 2003

What Gansler said during Monday night’s debate hosted by Maryland Public Television is technically true. But Brown and a leading advocate for sexual assault victims in Maryland say Gansler’s comments are very misleading.

In 2003, on the floor of the House of Delegates, Brown voted against a pair of bills that extended the statute of limitations for bringing civil cases in instances of child sexual abuse. Brown was in fact the only delegate in the chamber to vote against either bill.

But aides to Brown say he voted against the bills as a protest because he believed they had been weakened too much during the committee process.

As introduced, one of the bills, for example, would have given victims of child sexual abuse until age 33, instead of 21, to file lawsuits. But by the time the bill passed, the age had been rolled back to 25. The other bill was similar.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Brown unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill before it reached the floor. His amendments would have restored the age cutoff to 33 and also allowed victims to seek damages after that if there were clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was liable.

Brown was joined by several other delegates in voting against the bills on the committee level. One of the bills was approved 14 to 6, while the other was approved 12 to 9. The other ‘no” votes became “yes” votes once the bills reached the floor.

Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, who worked to get the bills passed in 2003, said Brown was “a strong advocate for the survivors.”

“It’s factually incorrect to say that then-Delegate Brown was anything other than supportive of survivors of sexual assault,” said Jordan, who is not involved in the campaign.

Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said Gansler’s comments in the Monday debate were “reckless and irresponsible accusations that he knows completely misrepresent the truth.

Gansler spokeswoman Katie Hill dismissed the notion of a “protest vote” by Brown, saying that “would induce laughter if it weren’t such a repugnant attempt to distort the truth.”

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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