MCASA’s Legislative Advocacy in Action: New Maryland Laws Take Effect October 1st

Sep 28th, 2023

Many new laws in Maryland take effect on October 1st of the year they are enacted. MCASA is a leading voice for survivors in Annapolis, and this year’s legislative advocacy helped support important progress for sexual assault survivors. Here are some highlights of the laws going into effect on Sunday: 

Victim Services Stabilization Act (VOCA) – SB148/HB186 – PASSED
A bill to provide state funds to back-fill VOCA shortages and eliminate the fluctuations in funding for core services.  MCASA led a group of coalitions and service providers to help stabilize this core funding and allow victim services providers to focus on their clients instead of VOCA shortfalls.  The Maryland Children’s Alliance, Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, Office of the Attorney General, Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, MANO, AARP-Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Chiefs & Sheriffs Association, MD Department of Human Services, MD Human Trafficking Task Force, Maryland Hospital Association, and others all worked together to pass this important bill.  Bill sponsors Chair Guy Guzzone and Chair Ben Barnes are both long-standing supporters of efforts to help survivors and were strong and effective champions.  They are much appreciated.  Lead sponsors:  Chair Guy Guzzone and Chair Ben Barnes.

Marriage Should Not Be a Defense to Sex Crimes – Love is No Defense Act – HB4/SB129 – PASSED
Maryland allows marriage to be a defense to some sex crimes.  It was past time to remove this archaic law from the books.  MCASA especially appreciates everyone who stood firmly in opposition to amendments that would have continued to allow marriage as a defense to some crimes.  Lead sponsors: Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield and Senator Ariana Kelly (introduced by former Senator Susan Lee).

Abortion Access – 4 bills – ALL PASSED
In wake of the Dobbs decision, the Maryland legislature acted swiftly and firmly to protect reproductive rights in our State.  Abortion access is critical for rape survivors and the people who help them.  MCASA was honored to be part of the coalition advocating for these important bills.  We are especially grateful to Speaker Adrienne Jones for leading the effort beginning last session, and to President Bill Ferguson for joining her in the 2023 session. The amazing Robyn Elliott, Planned Parenthood of Maryland, and Michelle Siri, Women’s Law Center of Maryland, led advocacy efforts and are also much appreciated.   

  • Constitutional Amendment – HB705/SB798 – PASSED
    A bill to enshrine reproductive rights in Maryland’s constitution.  Passage of this bill will place the issue on the ballot for voters to consider.  Lead sponsors: Speaker Adrienne Jones and President Bill Ferguson.
  • Shielding Providers & Survivors from Liability – SB859/HB808 – PASSED
    A bill to protect rape crisis center staff, health care providers, people who help survivors, and survivors from out-of-state lawsuits and subpoenas when they seek or assist someone seeking abortion care.  Attorney General Anthony Brown testified personally in support of this bill and MCASA was honored to speak on the sponsor panel with him and our colleagues from Planned Parenthood, the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, and health care associations.  Lead sponsors: Delegate Nicole Williams and Chair Will Smith.
  • Insurance Privacy – SB786/HB812 – PASSED
    Preventing disclosure and exchange of health care information regarding abortion care. Lead sponsors:  Senator Shelly Hettleman and Delegate Sandy Rosenberg.
  • Reproductive Care on College Campuses – HB477/SB341 – PASSED
    Requiring that University of Maryland higher education institutions provide access to contraception and access to abortion care (via referral or on campus). Lead Sponsors:  Chair Brian Feldman and then-Delegate (now Senator) Ariana Kelly.

Statute of Limitations – Civil Child Sexual Abuse – HB1/SB686 – PASSED
This bill eliminates the statute of limitations in civil suits based on child sexual abuse and permits retroactive application of the law.  MCASA honors Delegate CT Wilson and the enormous personal sacrifice his continued advocacy entailed.  Lead sponsors: Delegate CT Wilson and Chair Will Smith.

Safe Harbor for Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking – HB297/SB292 – PASSED
Establishing “safe harbor” rules against criminal prosecution or juvenile proceedings against minors who are victims of sex trafficking and commit lower-level crimes.  Gratitude goes to Amanda Rodriguez, Executive Director of TurnAround for her leadership over the years it took to pass this important legislation. Lead sponsors:  Senator Jeff Waldstreicher and Delegate Sandy Bartlett.

Repeal – Unnatural Perverted Sexual Acts – SB54/HB131 – PASSED
A bill to repeal archaic language criminalizing consensual sexual activity between adults, historically used to intimidate the LGBTQ+ community.  Lead sponsors: Senator Clarence Lam, Chair Luke Clippinger, and Vice Chair David Moon.

Read the full 2023 Legislative Report

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