With the state House poised to vote Monday on a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at guaranteeing the rights of crime victims, those victims, their advocates, and the state lawmakers who support them rallied in the Capitol rotunda.
Both the state House and Senate are sponsoring identical versions of the legislation, known as “Marsy’s Law.” If approved finally, it would amend Pennsylvania’s Constitution to enshrine existing laws that inform victims of trials, hearing dates, and their right to attend and participate. It would not create any new laws.
NEWS: Marsy's Law, a victim's right amendment to the state constitution with stricter reporting and notification requirements, passes the PA House 190-8. It now advances to the Senate. If it passes the upper chamber, it'll require a referendum before it becomes law.
— Stephen Caruso (@StephenJ_Caruso) April 8, 2019
The measure, part of a national initiative named for a woman murdered in California in 1983, has already passed in 11 states.
“Crime touches everyone who is standing here,” Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, the sponsor of the House version of the bill, told the crowd. She added that, as she spoke, “someone in Pennsylvania will be the victim of a crime through no fault of their own. Let me say that again: through no fault of their own. Someone else did something to them.”
Constitutional amendments must be approved, in identical form, in consecutive legislative sessions and then voted on by the voters in a statewide referendum. The bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously last session. It needs to pass both the House and Senate again this session to become a ballot referendum.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania opposes the legislation, arguing that enshrining these laws in the constitution will make it much harder to fix problems that arise down the road.
Activists gathered at the start of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. In addition to calling for passage of Marsy’s Law, they also argued on behalf of a stalled fix to the state’s civil statute of limitations that would allow former childhood victims of sexual assault to sue their accusers and the institutions that harbored them. They also called for workplace protections for sexual harassment and abuse.
The proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s civil statute of limitations, spurred by revelations last year of widespread sexual abuse in six Roman Catholic diocese across Pennsylvania, would provide justice for “victims who have been silenced and denied for too long,” state Victims Advocate Jennifer Storm said.