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Senate panel endorses sexual assault bill without debate

The first day of Legislature in Salt Lake City, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. A bill clarifying the definition of sexual assault that was the subject of controversial comments by a lawmaker sailed through a Senate committee Tuesday.
The first day of Legislature in Salt Lake City, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. A bill clarifying the definition of sexual assault that was the subject of controversial comments by a lawmaker sailed through a Senate committee Tuesday.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill clarifying the definition of sexual assault that was the subject of controversial comments by a lawmaker sailed through a Senate committee Tuesday.

HB74, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is intended to clarify the definition of "without consent of the victim" regarding sexual offenses. Romero said the current law is confusing and virtually impossible to prosecute.

The Senate Judiciary, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement committee unanimously endorsed the measure.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill makes it clear that an unconscious person is assumed to not have consented to sex. The existing law requires proof that consent was not given.

"This only applies if you're in court on a rape charge," he said.

Weiler said he doesn't believe there's a bill that has drawn more media attention this session. House members have asked him to propose amendments to HB74, but he said he's not going to do that.

Earlier this month, Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, apologized after asking in a committee hearing on the bill whether having sex with an unconscious spouse would be rape. His comments were criticized around the country on social media.

The House passed the bill 75-0 last week without debate.

— Dennis Romboy