Hans Bader has some clarification on one issue on which there’s been widespread confusion, on which the California law does not go to the extreme some would have liked [San Francisco Chronicle letter to the editor; earlier]:
“New law redefines consent at college” (Sept. 29) claimed that California’s new “affirmative consent” law regulating college sex “says that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated.” But it does not say this. What it actually says is that “consent” is absent when “the complainant was incapacitated” due to alcohol.
Most intoxicated people are not legally deemed “incapacitated” and can consent, as law professor Anne Coughlin and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have noted.
Many happily married people have sex after drinking. While some liberal Democrats who sponsored SB967 wanted to ban sex between intoxicated people, the final version of the bill does not do so.
Admittedly, the new law is disturbingly vague in other ways. Its co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), said, “Your guess is as good as mine,” when asked how an innocent person could prove “affirmative” consent.
Hans Bader, Washington, D.C.