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Politics & Government

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Move Closer To Letting Child Sex Abuse Victims Sue

Patrick Doyle
90.5 WESA

For the first time, prominent Republican state senators on Wednesday put their support behind legislation in Pennsylvania to change the law to allow now-adult victims of child sexual abuse to sue their perpetrators or institutions that did not prevent it when it happened years or decades ago.

The vote, 11-3, in the Senate Judiciary Committee comes after years of damning investigations into child sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses and signals that the legislation may have enough Republican support to pass the full state Senate.

Similar legislation passed the House earlier this month.

Many childhood victims of sexual assault lost the right to sue in Pennsylvania when they turned 18 or were young adults, depending on state law at the time.

Under the legislation, they would have two years to sue over their alleged abuse, no matter how long ago it occurred.

For years, Senate Republicans have blocked such legislation, arguing that it is unconstitutional. Rather, they have backed a move to change the constitution to restore the right to sue.

On Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, said that as long as lawmakers are unified around the idea of changing the constitution, he is willing to back legislation to change the law and see what happens in court if it is challenged.

Under the bill, a legal challenge goes straight to the state Supreme Court.