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Lawmakers target spouses who drug, rape their partners

May 4, 2019
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Jenny Teeson, center in white, of Andover, Minnesota, looks on as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signs a bill at the Capitol in St. Paul, on Thursday, May 2, 2019, repealing a Minnesota law that prevented prosecutors from filing sexual assault charges against people accused of raping their spouse. Teeson, testified before legislative committees earlier this year about how her now ex-husband drugged her and made a video of himself raping her while she was unconscious. Prosecutors dropped rape charges because of the old law, and he served just 30 days in jail for invasion of privacy. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Efforts to end exemptions in state laws for rape by a spouse are gaining renewed attention in the #MeToo era.

Vestiges of the so-called “marital rape exemption” or “spousal defense” still exist in most states. They are remnants of the English common law that helped inform American legal traditions.

Legislative attempts to end or modify them have a mixed record but succeeded just this week in Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that ends a legal exemption for spouses who rape partners when they are drugged, unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. That law had prevented prosecutions in those cases.

That particular exemption remains on the books in 17 states, including Wyoming.