In Suprise Twist, Virginia Lawmakers Revive Bill on 'Consent' in Sex Ed

Jan 31, 2017


Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, has introduced several measures to combat sexual assault.
Credit Steve Helber / AP

Last week we brought you the story of a bill that was shot down in Richmond. The measure would have required the topic of consent in relationships be part of high school curriculums.

But now, that measure has been revived. Early Monday morning, it passed the Republican-controlled education committee.

Mallory Noe-Payne explains.

It’s not entirely clear what happened, but lawmakers seemed to have had a change of heart on Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn’s bill. It directs school districts to incorporate the topic of consent and permission into their family life lessons -- beginning in 9th grade, says Filler-Corn, a Democrat from Northern Virginia.

“It’s a step in the right direction, all towards educating our youth in an age appropriate evidence based manner,” explains Filler-Corn. “And this will hopefully prevent future instances that we all are reading about so often.”

Republican lawmakers on a subcommittee hesitated last week, saying they were concerned such lessons might imply to under-age students that they could legally give consent for sex. They voted to table the measure.

But in the full committee meeting Monday many of those same lawmakers seemed pacified by a small tweak in language -- adding the word legal, before consent.

“One of the aims of this language is too point out that even though a consensual relationship among people of high school age that depending upon their age, even if it is consensual, it could be illegal in Virginia,” said Delegate James LeMunyon in the committee hearing. LeMunyon is a Republican from Northern Virginia who is also on the subcommittee that initially heard the proposal and said it needed more work.

“And that was really one of the things that we wanted pointed out in this Family Life education class. I think that was one of the reasons the subcommittee went with this change,” he continued.

Other lawmakers, like Republicans Scott Lingamfelter and Brenda Pogge, also switched their vote.

The measure though, still has a ways to go. It has to pass the full House of Delegates, known for being more conservative, and then on to Virginia’s Senate.