Following an emotional committee vote the night before, the Maryland House of Delegates gave preliminary approval Thursday to a hard-fought bill to remove the statute of limitations to file lawsuits against child sex abusers.
The Child Victims Act would create a “lookback” window for survivors of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers and the institutions where the accused worked. The House Judiciary Committee amended House Bill 1 on Wednesday to cap awards from lawsuits and allow the Maryland Supreme Court to determine the law’s constitutionality before cases are heard in a lower court.
“Are there further questions?” Committee Chair Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, asked ahead of the committee vote that advanced the bill to the House floor.
Clippinger choked back tears, apologizing as his voice cracked and his pitch heightened.
“It has taken a long time,” the chair said tearfully, “so let’s not wait any longer.”
Though the House had passed the bill, sponsored by St. Mary’s County Democrat and House Economic Matters Committee Chair C.T. Wilson, in previous years, Wednesday’s committee vote marked a momentous occasion. The legislation Wilson unsuccessfully championed for years now matched a version the Senate passed earlier this session.
This is the closest it’s come to reaching the governor’s desk since Wilson, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, first sponsored it in 2019.
The act is expected to receive final approval from the House this week.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Del. Aaron Kaufman was the only committee member to speak Wednesday. Eager to share his support, the freshman Democrat from Montgomery County was told by Clippinger that he had to cast his vote before he could explain it.
“I am casting my ‘Yes’ vote in honor of Chairman C.T. Wilson, who has waited far too long and suffered far too much to reach this day,” Kaufman said. “But this proves the old adage that, ‘Good things come to those who wait.’”
“And wait and wait, they did,” Clippinger responded.
The 23-member committee cast 21 votes in favor of passing the bill, and more than half requested that they be added as co-sponsors. There were no votes in opposition. Del. William Valentine, from Western Maryland and Del. Chris Tomlinson of Frederick County — both Republicans — were excused.
“The chair votes, ‘Aye,’” Clippinger said in casting his vote. “The motion is adopted.”
The committee room filled with applause.
Baltimore Sun reporter Lee O. Sandlerin contributed to this article.