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Parental-rights, marriage, parole bills fail in General Assembly

ANNAPOLIS – For the eighth session, the General Assembly failed in 2017 to pass legislation designed to make it easier for courts to strip parental rights from a mother or father who conceived the child through non-consensual intercourse.

The legislature also did not change Maryland’s law allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to get married with parental permission or proof of pregnancy and 15-year-olds to get married with both.

In addition, the General Assembly failed to pass legislation to take parole decisions for life-sentenced inmates away from the governor and leave the determinations solely with the Parole Commission.

These three bills died quietly as the 90-day General Assembly session ended at 12 a.m. Tuesday.

With regard to the parental rights measure — Senate Bill 574 — the Senate and House failed to agree on unified legislation that could have ended the annual roadblock to the measure endorsed by the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. The major hurdle to passage remained concerns about the procedural and due-process rights of the parent accused of initiating the non-consensual intercourse.

As for the matrimony measure, Senate Bill 861, the House had sought to prohibit marriage before reaching age 18 while the Senate sought to change current law by banning marriage for 15 year olds. The chambers failed to reach agreement before the legislative session ended.

Supporters of taking the governor out of parole decisions called House Bill 723 necessary because Maryland chief executives from both parties have bowed to political pressure in going nearly 25 years without adopting any Parole Commission recommendation to release a prisoner sentenced to life in prison.

But opponents countered that Gov. Larry Hogan has ended that drought by granting parole to two inmates who were serving life sentences, as well as commuting four life sentences, during his first two years in office.

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