Del­e­gates ap­prove ‘yes means yes’ sex­ual-con­sent stan­dard in schools

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY JOSH HICKS josh.hicks@wash­post.com

Mary­land’s House of Del­e­gates on Satur­day ap­proved leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire pub­lic schools to teach a “yes means yes” stan­dard for sex­ual con­sent, mov­ing the state one step closer to be­com­ing only the sec­ond to adopt such a man­date.

The mea­sure was among a long list of bills the Demo­cratic-led House ap­proved in a busy floor ses­sion last­ing more than three hours, with a Monday dead­line loom­ing for “cross­over day.” That refers to the date by which mea­sures must ad­vance out of at least one cham­ber to have the best chance of reaching the gov­er­nor’s desk.

The House also passed leg­is­la­tion that would make Mary­land the first state to pro­hibit pub­lic and pri­vate col­leges from in­clud­ing ques­tions about crim­i­nal his­tory on their ap­pli­ca­tions. Ad­mis­sions of­fices would be able to ask ac­cepted stu­dents whether they have been con­victed of a crime, but the bill would bar them from with­draw­ing an of­fer of ad­mis­sion based on the an­swer.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the cham­ber ap­proved a mea­sure that would make smok­ing mar­i­juana in a ve­hi­cle a crim­i­nal of­fense rather than a civil in­frac­tion, as it is un­der cur­rent law. It also gave pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval to Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Hogan’s $4.7 bil­lion cap­i­tal bud­get, with mi­nor changes.

The “yes means yes” bill, which passed with bi­par­ti­san sup­port in a 115-to-25 vote, would re­quire sex­ual-ed­u­ca­tion classes in all Mary­land pub­lic schools to teach a con­cept known as af­fir­ma­tive con­sent, de­fined by the leg­is­la­tion as “clear, un­am­bigu­ous, know­ing, in­formed and vol­un­tary agree­ment be­tween all par­tic­i­pants to en­gage in each act within the course of sex­ual ac­tiv­ity.” Lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials would de­cide how to tai­lor the lessons in an age-ap­pro­pri­ate way.

Cal­i­for­nia adopted a sim­i­lar man­date two years ago.

The push for such leg­is­la­tion comes amid a grow­ing move­ment on col­lege cam­puses across the coun­try to adopt af­fir­ma­tive-con­sent stan­dards for ad­ju­di­cat­ing sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions, ef­forts that have sparked na­tional de­bate.

Ad­vo­cates say the guide­line could help pre­vent rape and en­sure jus­tice for vic­tims. But crit­ics say that in prac­tice, af­fir­ma­tive con­sent is un­re­al­is­tic and amounts to a “guilty un­til proven in­no­cent” stan­dard that could be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The col­lege-ad­mis­sions bill passed 94-to-45, largely along party lines, with sup­port from the Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity. Pro­po­nents of the mea­sure say it will help level the crim­i­nal-jus­tice playing field and re­move a bar­rier for felons try­ing to change their lives for the bet­ter.

The cap­i­tal bud­get faces one more vote in the House be­fore it could move to the Se­nate.

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