California Governor Jerry Brown signed the nation's first affirmative consent law on Sunday, meaning that the paradigm of "yes means yes" is now the law of the land at colleges in the Golden State.
Under pressure to reform how campuses deal with sexual assault and rape, California lawmakers first passed the bill last month. With Brown's signature, California is the first state to enact a law that implements a standard for consent for all educational universities that receive state funding or any private institutions where students receive state grants. As Ian Lovett explains, the law, in essence, changes the conversation from being about what is permissible rather than what's not.
"Consent can be conveyed by a verbal 'yes,' or signaled in a nonverbal way, but lack of resistance or objection cannot constitute consent."
Women's rights activists, and most generally reasonable people, hailed the law as a major step forward. Someone who is drunk or unconscious, for example, can not grant consent.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh served as a useful foil for the initiative to change the law after he lambasted Ohio State University earlier this month for its consent law, which he said "takes all the romance out of everything.”
College like Ohio State and myriad others across the country have passed affirmative consent laws in the past although none of have been formally backed up by the full power of the state.
California is now the first. The question now is whether other states will follow.