Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signs "historic" bill to make marital rape illegal in state

The marital rape exception statute had protected rapists against prosecution if they had lived or had ongoing sexual relationship with the victim

                            Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signs "historic" bill to make marital rape illegal in state
DFL candidate for Governor Rep. Tim Walz (Source : Getty Images)

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a historic law on May 2 repealing the current marital rape exception in the state that had previously protected rapists against prosecution if they had lived and had an ongoing sexual relationship with the victim.

Walz, who is a Democrat, signed the bill in St. Paul and said that the "reprehensible exception should never have been part of our criminal statutes".

According to the the original statutes in the state law, a person accused of rape would not be found to commit criminal sexual conduct if they and the victim “were adults cohabiting in an ongoing voluntary sexual relationship at the time of the alleged offense, or if the complainant is the actor's legal spouse, unless the couple is living apart and one of them has filed for legal separation or dissolution of the marriage.” 

Reuters reported that the legislation was approved 132-0 in the state house and 66-0 in the senate earlier this week. The marital rape laws that were passed in the 1980s and 90s made it a crime in all 50 states in the US but there were still some loopholes that existed in a few of the states.

Tim Walz (D-MN) speaks to a crowd of supporters at his election night party on August 14, 2018, in St Paul, Minnesota (Source: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)



State Rep. Zack Stephenson, who authored the legislation, had called marital rape exceptions “abominable” in a statement upon the bill’s passage in the Minnesota Senate earlier this week. “Everyone deserves to be safe from rape regardless of who they are married to. Courageous Minnesotans like Jenny Teeson who are coming forward to tell painful personal stories are the inspiration behind this legislation,” he said.

Stephenson had previously said when repealing the marital rape exception had to be voted on: "Under existing Minnesota law, if a man drugs his wife and then rapes her while she is unconscious, he cannot be prosecuted for rape. We like to think of so-called marital rape exceptions as an artifact of history, as a relic of a time when a woman was considered the property of her husband. But the sad truth is that we still have a limited marital rape exception on the books today, here in Minnesota."

After the repeal of the "abominable law", Stephenson said: "This is a historic day. We’re moving Minnesota’s laws out of the 19th century."