Representatives divided whether Vermont’s “stealthing bill” favors one sex over another

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Written by Aubrey Weaver | Community News Service. 

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would allow victims of “stealthing” to bring a civil case against their assailant.

For context, stealthing is a term used to describe when someone secretly removes or tampers with a condom during sex.

However, during the final day in committee, there was a heated debate about whether the bill’s protections would favor one sex over another.

Some representatives, including Representative Tom Burditt, R-West Rutland, argued that the bill did not go far enough and was unequal.

Burditt read the bill as primarily applying to the actions of males and claimed that females could lie about contraceptive use and STD diagnoses, which is “just as much stealthing as removing a condom before sex.”

He argued that the legislation was the most unequal piece to come out of the room and building.

On the other hand, Representative Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, who introduced the bill, argued that it was “incremental not unequal.”

She represents many university students in her district who are “excited to see this legislation” because stealthing is an emerging problem they see on campus.

She argued that this was a very specific problem that could be addressed, and it’s been addressed in other countries and California, so it’s time for Vermont to do it too.

Other representatives, such as William Notte, D-Rutland, argued that the bill was not unequal and that, even if it was, it didn’t matter.

Notte argued that there’s been a double standard between men and women regarding sex and what happens sexually, either consensually or nonconsensually in this country, it has favored men 99.9% of the time.

He added that if the bill did something more for women than it does for men, that was good.

Ultimately, the bill passed out of committee, and with its passage in the full chamber, now rests in the Senate.

Aubrey Weaver is a reporter with the Community News Service, a program of the University of Vermont.

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