Minnesota Court Ruling Fuels Calls to Change Sexual Assault Law

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“We are calling on the Legislature, the Minnesota Legislature, this session to really address these issues,” said Lindsay Brice, the law and policy director at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “We can’t wait. It’s not fair to survivors to continue having debates.”

Marion O’Neill, a Republican Minnesota state representative, said she first introduced a five-part bill in 2019 that aimed, among other changes, to revise the state’s definition of mental incapacitation. She said at the time that the bill needed more vetting and input from stakeholders, so a working group was assembled that year that included sexual assault survivors, victims’ advocates, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers.

A new bill was introduced in February. It would create a new sexual extortion crime, making it illegal to blackmail or otherwise threaten someone as a way of coercing them into sexual contact. It would also expand the definition of “mentally incapacitated” to say that people in such a state are “incapable of consenting or incapable of appreciating, understanding, or controlling” their conduct.

“It’s really ignited a fire under the bill because people are hearing about the Supreme Court’s decision and are rightly outraged about how our current law works, or doesn’t work, as the case may be,” one of its authors, Representative Kelly Moller, a Democrat, said in a phone interview.

The bill has bipartisan support, and Ms. O’Neill, also an author, said that the leadership in the State Senate was working to move it forward. The Supreme Court decision had helped, in a way, by drawing new attention to its importance, she added.

“I don’t know of another bill in the Minnesota House that has that much support,” Ms. O’Neill said, adding, “I believe we’re really going to make this happen.”

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