Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday signed more than 200 bills, including a measure that advocates say will change “the way we look at rape.”
The governor was joined by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) to sign what many advocates referred to as the “no means no” bill.
Under the measure, evidence of physical resistance is not required to prove that a sexual crime has been committed.
“We’ve really made some significant progress this year,” said Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “The bill on physical resistance is a fundamental change in the way we look at rape and respond to rape.”
The governor also signed bills that require the retention of sexual-assault evidence kits for at least 20 years, redefine sexual abuse to include sex trafficking and expand the definition of rape to conform with that of the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
“Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also supporting victims and the community in the process of healing,” Hogan said in a statement. “We are extremely proud to have worked with our partners in the legislature to pass these important measures to protect our most vulnerable Marylanders and bring criminals to justice.”
The signing of the “no means no” bill comes just months after the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault completed an audit of three years of sexual assault cases in Baltimore County that failed to move forward.
Jordan said of the 124 cases the coalition reviewed, 42 were discharged because of a failure to demonstrate physical resistance.
“What is so important about this is that it conforms our law to what we are teaching our students in high school and college,” Jordan said. “You have to have consent and ‘no means no.’ ”
Hogan also signed a bill that exempts law enforcement and fire and emergency responders from state taxes on retirement income. Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery) has introduced the bill for several years, and Hogan offered the idea as part of his legislative package this year.
Also on Tuesday, the Legislative Black Caucus continued its push for Hogan, Miller and Busch to call for a one-day special session to take up a bill to expand and diversify the state’s medical marijuana industry.
Andy Pierre, the executive director of the caucus, said the group began collecting signatures on a petition that would force lawmakers to come back to Annapolis to resolve the issue.
“We’re doing a full spread,” Pierre said of the attempt to reach lawmakers who attended Tuesday’s bill signing.
Miller said that “the bill got played” in the House, where final minutes of the session were spent thanking staff, and that he is willing to hold a special session but only to consider the bill that passed the Senate.
“We’re not going to call a special session to renegotiate any bills,” Miller said.
But, if a special session is called, Miller said he would also be inclined to take another look at another bill that failed to move in the final minutes of the session: a measure that would allow rape victims to terminate the parental rights of their abusers.