Male Lawmakers Don't Overturn Rapist Custody Law

by Kelly Tunney
Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There are some laws in the U.S. that just don't make sense and are plainly wrong. For example, in Maryland and six other states, a woman who has a child as a result of a rape does not automatically get full custody of that child. Legislators in the state had the chance to make things right by overturning the law. Unfortunately, on April 11, a group of male legislators neglected to overturn a bill that forces women to share custody with their rapists.

In Maryland, rape survivors whose attackers do not get a conviction must negotiate custody with their alleged attacker by taking them to family court. At court, the woman is required to provide evidence that the pregnancy occurred through a non-consensual act.

In an effort to correct the ridiculous law, Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais introduced legislation to deny an attacker's claims to custody. The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act passed in both the state House and the Senate, but the two legislative versions were different. So a committee of five delegates and senators was created to negotiate it into a single bill. Interestingly, the Baltimore Sun points out that no women were asked to be a part of the committee to discuss such an important bill that affects women.

The fact that the bill couldn't pass is a big red flag for the priorities of the Maryland legislature, but the fact that not one single woman was involved in the negotiating of a bill that would overturn legislation that is so damaging to women is just mind-blowing.

While the testosterone-filled committee did finally negotiate a deal, it was at the very last hours of the 2017 Maryland legislative session. According to the Baltimore Sun, the committee sent aides to draft a final version, which needed to be voted on in the assembly before it could pass, but before that could happen, the legislative session ran up.

And what was the final straw that kept the bill from passing? Judicial Proceedings Committee Sen. Bobby Zirkin said that the print shop at the State House could not print out the copies of the revised bill fast enough to make it to the floor in time for voting. As if that isn't insane enough, the Baltimore Sun also reported that it was the second year the bill had failed to pass on the last day of legislative voting.

Now Maryland legislators will have to wait until the next legislative session in 2018 to give it a third shot at passing, so women in Maryland (or elsewhere) aren't required to negotiate for custody of their child if that child was produced by rape. Hopefully, someone can just save the agreed upon text and shoot it right on through in January, because there is absolutely no other reason why the bill should not pass.