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Change to state rape law passes hurdle

A proposed law that would expand the definition of rape in New York passed the State Assembly Tuesday.

The bill, proposed by Assembs. Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Aravella Simotas (D-Queens), was approved 105-0. It does not yet have a co-sponsor in the State Senate.

"Survivors of sexual assault have courageously come forward with their stories and have made it evident that what they've experienced is rape, even if it's currently interpreted otherwise," Simotas said in a statement.

The bill would add oral and anal sexual assault to the state's definition of rape and eliminate a requirement that penetration be proved to establish a rape charge, supporters said. State law currently defines a crime as rape only in cases of vaginal penetration.

The bill was spurred by the trial of former NYPD Officer Michael Pena, in which a judge declared a mistrial on two counts of rape in March 2012. Pena was convicted of sexually assaulting a Bronx teacher at gunpoint.

The bill also comes as Silver has been criticized about the Vito Lopez scandal.

Lawsuits filed in federal and state courts last week claim Lopez (D-Brooklyn) routinely groped and harassed young female staffers and that Silver abetted Lopez by quietly settling similar claims by previous Lopez staffers.

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