WASHINGTON, DC -- Lawmakers met on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to present the "I Am Vanessa Guillen" bill, hoping it could be the start of change in the U.S. military five months after the Texas soldier was murdered at Fort Hood, reports ABC affiliate KTRK.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier announced that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has agreed to bring the proposed legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives floor for consideration.
Speier said as of Wednesday, the bill has 73 Democrat and Republican co-sponsors.
She noted that if 90 additional Republican members sponsor the bill, it will be taken up under a suspension rule and presented on the floor even sooner.
Regardless, they predict the legislation will be brought to the floor in the next few weeks or in November.
The Guillen family has been very vocal about passing the proposed bipartisan bill, which would allow active duty military members to file sexual harassment and assault claims to a third party.
It would also make sexual harassment a crime under military law and would move prosecutions of sexual assault and harassment out of the chain of command.
Legislators at Wednesday's event held signs that said "Military sexual trauma ends with us #EndMST."
Speier shared statistics about sexual assault in the military at the event.
She says in 2018, 20,000 individuals said they were sexually harassed. Of those 20,000, she said 5,000 filed a report.
Out of the 5,000, less than 500 of the cases went to court and less than 250 were convicted, Speier said.
The military is 25% female, yet women make up 63% of reported assaults.
Speier noted that the youngest, lowest ranking women are the ones most likely to be victims.
Tomorrow, legislators will travel to Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas to meet with military and Killeen police.
They intend to visit the crime scenes of Vanessa and other victims at the base that has reported almost 30 deaths in 2020 alone.
"Although we can't bring Vanessa back, with this bill we honor her legacy," Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia said through tears.
Harris County (Houston) Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said Vanessa's case hit close to home and left an imprint on the community, which has the opportunity to help make history by getting involved in the process of passing the bill.
"There's three folks that we have to get involved and make sure that they hear us very loud and clear: Senator [John] Cornyn, Senator [Ted] Cruz and Senator Mitch McConnell," explained Adrian. "Those are the three most powerful people in the United States Senate at this moment, and they can weigh in with the full power of their offices to encourage Congress to pass a bipartisan bill immediately. Then they can take it up in the senate and then put it into law, and put it on the president's desk and get a signature on it."