The first law will help sexual assault victims move on with their lives without being forced to have regular, painful interactions with the man who raped them. It allows victims who become pregnant as a result of rape to petition the court to sever the parental rights of the man who raped them.
The idea that any woman should be forced to co-parent a child with her rapist is repulsive. Unfortunately, the previous law in Maine allowed for just that situation.
A man convicted of rape in a criminal court could already be stripped of parental rights to children conceived during their crime. However, the criminal standard of proof is far too high to protect victims of sexual assault.
Research shows that a shockingly low percent of rapes are even reported, and even fewer rapists are ever convicted. Rape cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, so even when charges are brought, attorneys often negotiate agreements to allow rapists to “plea down” and accept a lesser charge. Under current law, victims are unable to seek termination of parental rights without a criminal conviction.
The new law will allow victims to petition the court to terminate their attackers’ parental rights even without a criminal conviction, by presenting “clear and convincing evidence” that the child was conceived as a result of rape. This is the same standard applied in considering the termination of parental rights for any other reason.
This new law ensures rape victims will have a fair day in court.
The second law signed by the governor will protect Maine citizens from voter intimidation by creating common sense rules about video recording at the polls.
You may remember that last year, political activists pointed their video cameras at voters as they signed citizen initiative petitions at the polling place. The activists were very aggressive in many instances. Many of those voters felt intimidated, especially by activists who blocked their path, and who pointed cameras in their faces and demanded they disclose their names for the camera.
Unfortunately, without any rules regarding video recording at the polls, election wardens felt unable to address the situation.
I worked with the governor to craft a bill that empowers municipal clerks to enforce a 15-foot minimum distance between people shooting videos and the people they are recording at the polls. This ensures that neutral election observers can still record, while protecting the rights of voters to participate in Election Day without facing intimidation.
Now, I may not always see eye to eye with Gov. Paul LePage. But I know that he and I are equally committed to justice for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and to ensuring all Mainers have unfettered access to the ballot box on Election Day. I’m thankful that on this, and on other important issues for Maine people, we can put our differences aside and work together.
As always, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 287-1515, if you have questions about this or any other topic.