Montgomery County Delegate Sees Affirmative Consent Bill Falter at Session’s Close

Delegate Ariana Kelly said she plans to resurrect legislation next year


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Delegate Ariana Kelly

VIA STONE PHOTOGRAPHY

A push to incorporate lessons about affirmative consent into sex education curriculum across Maryland failed Monday in the waning hours of this year’s state legislative session.

The legislation, spearheaded by Delegate Ariana Kelly (D-Bethesda), would have required school systems to teach students that “clear, unambiguous, knowing, informed and voluntary agreement” should precede any sexual activity. The proposal cleared the House of Delegates by a wide margin in March but got bogged down in the Senate on Monday as the  session drew to a close.

On Tuesday, Kelly voiced optimism that the proposal will have more success down the road.

“I think we will be able to get it through next year,” she  said. “The good news is that Montgomery County is still moving forward regardless.”

Kelly said Montgomery County Public Schools officials are already working to place more emphasis on affirmative consent education in lessons about family life and human sexuality.

She offered up the proposal following a string of sexual misconduct allegations against famous figures, like Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes and Donald Trump. Her 12-year-old daughter, Maeve Sanford-Kelly, testified in Annapolis about the deluge of media messages about sexuality that flood young people and the importance of education on the topic.

“She said that this legislation is about making sure kids don’t grow up to be rapists,” Kelly said.

Initially, Kelly’s bill would’ve only applied to Montgomery County, but at the prompting of education policy experts, she later expanded it to cover the entire state.

Kelly said because she had to change the bill, she wasn’t able to submit it as early as she would have liked and couldn’t get an identical version introduced in the Senate. The timing, combined with the bill’s subject matter, might have bogged it down this session, she said.

“Anything with the words ‘human sexuality’ in it is going to raise more questions, and there were a lot of questions raised at the very last minute,” Kelly said.

The state Senate took up the proposal on Monday, the final day of the legislative session, but Kelly said things went awry during the floor debate. The lawmakers ended up approving an amendment that replaced a “shall” with a “may,” giving school systems the option not to teach affirmative consent if they chose. Kelly said the change “would have basically gutted” the bill, and the Senate opted not to take a final vote on the proposal.

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