Marital rape is still legal in some circumstances in Minnesota ― and state lawmakers are in the process of trying to change that.
The Minnesota House voted unanimously, 130-0, to repeal the state’s marital rape exception on Thursday.
“Under existing Minnesota law, if a man drugs his wife and then rapes her while she is unconscious, he cannot be prosecuted for rape,” Rep. Zack Stephenson (D), who spearheaded the repeal bill, said on Thursday before the House voted.
“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,” Stephenson continued. “But the sad truth is that we still have a limited marital rape exception on the books today, here in Minnesota.”
That exception shields some spouses who rape their partners from being prosecuted for criminal sexual conduct.
Generally speaking, marital or spousal rape has been outlawed in all 50 states. But a number of states still handle it differently from other sexual crimes so that it remains more difficult to prosecute or punish someone who rapes their spouse.
Stephenson said that in Minnesota the marital rape exception is used to successfully defend someone about seven times a year.
“This happens. This happens every single year,” he said. “In fact, the Sentencing Guidelines Commission estimates that repeal of this statute will result in seven additional convictions every year. That is seven people who are not getting the justice they are due because of this law.”
During his speech, Stephenson applauded a woman named Jenny Teeson who was watching from the gallery. Teeson said she was drugged, raped and videotaped by her husband. When she went to the police, she was told that she couldn’t press charges because her alleged rapist was her husband.
“Members, Jenny has done her part. It’s time to do ours,” Stephenson said, later thanking Teeson for “her persistence, her courage and her service to the people of Minnesota.”
The Associated Press reports that the entire gallery turned and applauded Teeson after the vote.
The bill now heads to the state Senate, where it’s expected to pass.