Last edited: February 14, 2005

Senate Resolution 207-Resolution Relating to Reform of Sexual Assault Laws in The District of Columbia

Congressional Record—Senate, September 9,1981 – 19774

Mr. DENTON (for himself, Mr. HELMS, Mr. EAST, and Mr. HATCH) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Governmental Affairs:

S. RES. 207

Resolved, That the Senate disapproves of the action of the District of Columbia Council described as follows: The Act entitled "An Act to reform the sexual assault laws of the District of Columbia, and for other purposes..' approved July 21, 1981 (D.C. Act 4-69) transmitted to the Congress pursuant to section 602(c) of the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act on July 21, 1981.


Mr. DENTON. Mr. President, I am today submitting a resolution to disapprove the District of Columbia Council's action in repealing certain aspects of the District's laws governing illicit sexual activity. I am joined by Senators HELMS, EAST, and HATCH.

Under the District of Columbia Self-Government Act, I believe that the District of Columbia should have the right to make and abide by its own laws, except in extraordinary circumstances. In passing bill 4-69, the City Council has created one of those extraordinary circumstances.

The District of Columbia should not be in the forefront in further liberalization of laws regarding sexual behavior. As the Nation's Capital, this city should not be the place where social experiment are performed, where centuries of legal tradition are thrown out the window. Rather, this city should be governed by standards which conform with the long-standing national consensus on these matters.

Recently there have been several episodes involving illicit sexual activity which have tended to bring disrepute on the city of Washington, and Capitol Hill in particular. If we do not object to the legalization of such activity, we will be sending a signal to the American people concerning our own standards of conduct—those of the Congress of the United States. That is a signal which the people will note.

Simply put, the city does not need to look or act any worse in representing this Nation—this "One Nation Under God"—to Americans, or to visitors from abroad.

D.C. bill 4-69 would remove criminal sanctions against the practice of sodomy. It would not view as a crime a teacher's seduction of a 16-year-old student. It would permit bestiality. In short, the D.C. bill would legalize virtually all consensual sex for those 16 years of age and older.

In addition, it would reduce the maximum penalty for forcible rape from life imprisonment to 20 years. The time actually served would be an insufficient deterrent to this most heinous crime. The word "rape" would be removed, reducing the stigma of the offense and decreasing the chance that a proper sentence would be imposed. The stark nature of the offense is blurred by a legal euphemism that will confuse juries, and the reduced maximum sentence will in some cases have the convicted rapist back on the streets in perhaps 3 to 4 years.

This bill is offensive in many respects, but the changes with regard to rape are especially offensive to women, and the changes with regard to consent to sexual activity at age 16 would pose a danger to youngsters.

Finally, I would point out that Federal law does not prohibit these activities which would be legalized by the bill. Rather, the Federal Government relies on the local legislative authority, plus the Assimilative Crimes Statute, to set down standards governing conduct in public buildings in the country's seat of Government. In this sense, the D.C. Government has become the rulemaking body for the Federal Government which binds it to a set of standards for conduct.

Mr. President, we are not talking about extending the moral arm of the Government into the unknown. We are talking about whether to repeal statutes that have been on the books 80 years. To the best of my knowledge, there have not been allegations that enforcement has been overreaching or overly intrusive. In fact, recent application of the laws suggest to me that both the Congress and the American people will not support decriminalization of illicit sexual activity.

I would therefore urge my colleagues to join me in expediting consideration and adoption of this resolution.

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