Proposal would nix marital exception for rape

OLYMPIA — Washington is one a handful of states where marriage remains an absolute defense against allegations of some forms of rape and sexual assault, and lawmakers considered a proposal Tuesday that would change that.

House Bill 1108 would remove the spousal exemption from both rape in the third degree — in which no physical force is used — and from taking indecent liberties.

“There is no such thing as legitimate rape,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland. “We have to get rid of this marital rape exception and catch up with the rest of the country.”

Until the 1970s, most states considered marriage to preclude any form of rape. Washington removed the marital exemption for first- and second-degree rape in 1983.

Over the past four decades, most other states, including all others in the Pacific Northwest, have removed the marital exception for all forms of rape.

Prosecutors and domestic violence groups testified in favor of the change in Washington state, which they said is long overdue.

Prosecutors have said that the current law has forced them to pursue lesser, misdemeanor assault charges in cases involving married couples that would otherwise qualify as third-degree rape.

Seattle-based criminal defense attorney Brad Meryhew said he has no objection to removing the marital exception for rape in the third degree but has concerns about doing so for indecent liberties.

Because a sleeping person is by law considered to be physically helpless, he said, touching your spouse while he or she is asleep could under the measure be interpreted as a class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

“We want to be careful about unintended consequences,” said Meryhew. “We don’t want to turn the marriage bed into a crime scene because I reach over and touch my husband’s butt.”

Goodman, the bill’s sponsor, said he was open to amending the bill to address Meryhew’s concerns, but said they struck him as “a little theoretical.”

Goodman said he is “pretty confident” that the measure will pass out of the Legislature and make it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, adding that he is fully committed to championing it.

“I will do everything I can to make sure that we get rid of the marital rape exception in Washington,” Goodman said.

More in Local News

Snohomish man, 63, missing from home since Monday

He left without his keys, wallet and phone, saying something about going to “the river.”

Firefighters come to the rescue and give mom new stroller

Donations to the Good Neighbor Program covered the $143.20 cost.

Woman struck, injured while crossing Highway 99 in Edmonds

The driver stopped after hitting the woman, who was dressed in dark clothes, at about 7:10 a.m.

One dead in crash south of Granite Falls

Two cars collided near the intersection of N. Lake Roesiger Road and Hidden Valley Road.

He drank nearly a gallon of vodka, then grabbed a cop’s gun

He got pummeled for that. Police had been trying to keep him on a gurney for an ambulance ride.

Police seek witnesses to hit-and-run

An 88-year-old woman was hurt when a Prius turned right at an intersection and struck her walker.

Lake Stevens man killed in crash near Highway 92 identified

Kristofor Nordgren, of Lake Stevens, was driving his Subaru when it hit a truck and a Ford Focus.

Case unresolved: The noose at an Edmonds construction site

Though two were fired over comments about it, police were unable to determine who put it there.

To get drug money, Lynnwood man says he cut 911 wires

Those wires happened to be the ones used by 911 dispatchers, but emergency services weren’t affected.

Most Read