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

Mill Creek councilman no longer lives in city, panel finds

The Canvassing Board determined Sean Kelly is not eligible to vote there.

A Democrat and ex-Republican team up to end two-party politics

Brian Baird and Chris Vance unveil a new organization called Washington Independents.

The beavers weren’t happy, either, about Mill Creek flooding

A tree fell on their dam, sending a rush of water into a neighborhood near Jackson High School.

Granite Falls names Success in Education winners

The Granite Falls School District announced its first quarter Success in Education… Continue reading

Alderwood-Terrace Rotary hands out Educator of the Month honors

The Rotary Club of Alderwood-Terrace awarded its October Educators of the Month.… Continue reading

Schools honor service members for Veterans Day

Schools across Snohomish County honored veterans leading up to the Nov. 11… Continue reading

Yes to turn signal — eventually

Adding a right-turn signal at 112th St. and 7th Ave. is turning out to be a bit more complicated.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

Front Porch

EVENTS Music for kids from 3 to 103 The nonprofit Everett Philharmonic… Continue reading

Most Read