The D.C. City Council gave unanimous final approval yesterday to a new sexual-assault law that does not include the controversial proposal to legalize sex between consenting children of about the same age.
The only change in the bill as it was finally approved came without debate when Council Chairman Arrington L. Dixon, using a parliamentary maneuver, broadened the city's statutory rape law so that it would apply to boys as well as girls.
Yesterday's final approval was both routine and rapid -- in marked contrast to the council's emotionally charged debate on the bill two weeks ago when one spectator was evicted for disrupting the raucous meeting. For the time being at least, it puts to rest the controversial age-of-consent issue that had sidetracked the council in its consideration of the reform package as a whole.
The new bill will now go to Mayor Marion Barry, who is expected to sign it, and then to Congress for a 30-day review period after which it will become law.
In a separate voice vote, the council temporarily avoided another politically thorny issue by extending for 90 days the city real estate speculators' tax, which expired Monday after three years of criticism from real estate dealers and praise from tenant organizations.
That bill essentially imposes a heavy tax on persons who sell property shortly after they buy it. Its enactment has been opposed by real estate professionals who argued that current high interest rates were already enough of a deterrent to speculative buying and selling.
The sexual-assault bill includes a number of significant changes. For instance, the new law would delete all reference to sodomy as a criminal offense, a change that Washington's homosexual community has sought for more than a decade.
It also would legalize adultery and fornication between consenting adults while making illegal sex with intoxicated persons or persons physically or mentally incapable of resisting.
Supporters of the sexual-assault reform effort had feared that the entire measure might be scuttled because of opposition to changing the statutory rape law so that under certain circumstances consenting children between 12 and 16 years of age could have sexual intercourse. That change had been proposed by Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1).
That change was initially supported by the council's Judiciary Committee, of which Clarke is chairman, and by six of the 13 council members. cBut after newspaper reports detailed how the bill would in effect legalize many instances of consentual teen-aged sex, some community members and church leaders mobilized to oppose it. The council members quickly backpedaled and voted two weeks ago to let the current statutory rape law stand.
Dixon said that by making the statutory rape law, which now prohibits anyone from having sexual intercourse with a girl under 16, apply to boys as well as girls was merely in keeping with the general tone of the entire sexual-assault bill. The new bill deletes most references to gender.