By Bruce DePuyt
One day after being praised for helping pass a high-profile piece of legislation, a Maryland lawmaker made it clear she did not act alone.
Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat and House Judiciary Committee vice chairwoman, took to the floor Wednesday to offer kudos to those who helped push the Rape Survivors Family Protection Act across the finish line. At the bill-signing ceremony, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) called her the bill’s “persistent champion” and said, “Without her, we would not be here today.”
The measure, which Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R) signed Tuesday, provides rape survivors who become pregnant with a process for severing the parental rights of their attackers.
Dumais’ floor speech on Wednesday was “to acknowledge all the individuals who helped with House Bill 1 and its iterations as the years went by.” She thanked advocates for the bill, current and former sponsors, the speaker, committee staff, leadership aides Alexandra Hughes and Vickie Gruber, her office staff, Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s) and the legislators who supported the measure on final passage.
“[Vallario and I] have disagreed, and I think it’s been obvious,” Dumais said. “He had genuinely held concerns but he worked with us to get through it. And [he] was certainly helpful in working to get House Bill 1 through quickly this year.”
The termination of parental rights bill, as it became known in Annapolis, was first introduced in 2007. It failed repeatedly because lawmakers disagreed over how to craft language to protect women who have been sexually assaulted and men who have not been convicted of rape in court. Amid speculation that some male lawmakers weren’t acting in good faith, editorial writers hammered the General Assembly for its failure, and advocates grew frustrated with what they viewed to be needless delays.
At the bill signing, Busch praised Dumais but made no mention of Vallario. Her subsequent floor remarks came hours after publication of a Maryland Matters analysis critical of the chairman.
“I thank the advocates. I thank my chairman.I thank my committee,” Dumais said. “It’s been a journey, but we did really good work together, and I greatly appreciate your support.