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State lawmakers pass 'yes means yes' bill

  • State Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, left, talks with Sen. Richardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, during the Senate session, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. By a 52-16 vote the Assembly approved de Leon's bill SB967, that changes the definition of consent for campuses investigating sexual assault cases by requiring “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision” by each party to engage in sexual activity. That marks a shift from the popular sexual assault prevention refrain, “no means no.” The bill now goes back to the Senate for what is expect to be a final vote on amendments.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would make California the first state to define when "yes means yes" while investigating sexual assaults on college campuses.

The Senate unanimously passed SB967 as states and universities across the U.S. are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not indicated his stance on the bill.

Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said his bill would begin a paradigm shift in how California campuses prevent and investigate sexual assault. Rather than using the refrain "no means no," the definition of consent under the bill requires "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." Earlier versions of the bill had similar language.

"With this measure, we will lead the nation in bringing standards and protocols across the board so we can create an environment that's healthy, that's conducive for all students, not just for women, but for young men as well too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex," de Leon said before the vote.

Silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. The legislation says it's also not consent if the person is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep.

Lawmakers say consent can be nonverbal, and universities with similar policies have outlined examples as maybe a nod of the head or moving in closer to the person.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault supported the change as one that will provide consistency across campuses and challenge the notion that victims must have resisted assault in order to have valid complaints.

Some critics say the legislation is overreaching and sends universities into murky, unfamiliar legal waters.

Gordon Finley, an adviser to the National Coalition for Men, wrote an editorial asking Brown not to sign the bill. He argued that "this campus rape crusade bill" presumes the guilt of the accused.

"This is nice for the accusers — both false accusers as well as true accusers — but what about the due process rights of the accused," Finley wrote.


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