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Utah lawmaker seeks to clarify comments on sexual assault bill

Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove speaks during a meeting in Nov. 2013. Wednesday, Greene sought to clarify controversial comments he made on a sexual assault bill in a committee hearing.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove speaks during a meeting in Nov. 2013. Wednesday, Greene sought to clarify controversial comments he made on a sexual assault bill in a committee hearing.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A state lawmaker Wednesday sought to clarify controversial comments he made on a sexual assault bill in a committee hearing.

Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, said his words were taken out of context and his intentions were misrepresented in news stories.

"I’m sorry for any unintended pain that my statements have caused," Greene said in a written statement.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee heard HB74, a bill seeking to clarify the definition of "without consent of the victim" regarding sexual offenses. During the discussion, Greene asked whether having sex with an unconcsious person would be rape.

"For instance, I hope this wouldn't happen, but this opens the door to it, an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious. … A prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape," he said. "That makes sense in a first date scenario but not where people have history of years of sexual activity."

Greene's comments blew up on social media and drew negative reactions nationwide.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said he talked to Greene after seeing news reports about his statements.

"I think the intention of Rep. Greene was to explore unintended consequences, but I think even he would tell you he'd like to choose his words more carefully," Hughes said.

In his written statement, Greene said, "I abhor sexual assault under any circumstances, including within marriage."

Under Utah law, sex with an unconscious person without consent is rape.

Greene said he was concerned about a change in the law's language that would remove the element of consent and might have some unintended consequences. He said he was trying to clarify the issue during the committee’s discussion.

Greene said he supported the bill's intent from the beginning and voted for it.

"I strongly support closing any loopholes that allow offenders to evade prosecution, and I believe this bill does that," he said.

The 11-member committee unanimously approved the measure. It will next be heard on the House floor.

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