With the Florida Legislature in the finals days of its regular session, on Monday, the state Senate passed “Gail’s Law” from state Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, without opposition.
Earlier in the month, the Florida House unanimously passed the companion measure from state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.
“Gail’s Law requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create and maintain a statewide system for tracking sexual assault evidence kits from the point of collection through the criminal justice process. That tracking system must be accessible to sexual assault survivors, giving them the option of receiving updates on the status of the evidence in their case. Currently, 30 states and Washington D.C. have implemented statewide databases for tracking sexual assault kits,” Slosberg’s office noted.
“HB 673 is named Gail’s Law in honor of the dedicated advocacy of Ms. Gail Gardner, an Orlando woman who survived a vicious sexual assault in 1988 by an armed man who broke into her home and raped her at knifepoint. Despite courageously consenting to an invasive physical exam where investigators collected forensic evidence, Gail waited over 30 years before her kit was tested. Police recently identified Gail’s attacker as a serial rapist who was already serving a life sentence in prison for another sexual assault. Sadly, evidence that could have led to his conviction sat on a shelf for 33 years,” Slosberg’s office added.
Stewart and Slosberg weighed in on the bill after it cleared the Senate on Monday and is now headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.
“I’m so proud to see Gail’s Law pass unanimously,” said Stewart. “After suffering through an assault, many survivors feel powerless in a system that often fails to provide the appropriate support. Gail’s Law would bring accountability and transparency to the process – placing the power back in the hands of survivors.”
“I am thrilled to see Gail’s Law passed by both chambers of the Florida Legislature with such broad support, especially during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There is no reason why we should be able to track a pizza more efficiently than we can track critical evidence in a sexual assault case. By passing Gail’s Law, we are addressing the historical lack of accountability surrounding sexual assault investigations, reducing the potential for evidence to go untested, and empowering survivors of sexual assault,” said Slosberg who is a co-chair of the Florida Women’s Legislative Caucus.
“I am proud to have this bill named after me and to know that it will bring information and answers to sexual assault survivors, like me,” said Gail Gardner who the bill was named after. “I waited 32 fear and anxiety-filled years to hear anything about my kit and my case, and I know others are experiencing that tragedy right now. My heart aches for them. Gail’s Law will help fix the problem and bring some healing to survivors who deserve no less.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org