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Ohio Senate unanimously passes bill to eliminate loophole on spousal rape in state law

 Ohio Senate votes on budget
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Senate votes on budget

After decades of efforts to change a provision of state law shielding people who rape their spouses from prosecution, the Ohio Senate has voted unanimously to remove that loophole.

House Bill 161 would eliminate exceptions in the law on rape, sexual battery and other sexual offenses that apply when the victim and the attacker are married.

Efforts to close the spousal rape loophole go back to 1985, with a minority of lawmakers over the years expressing concerns about rape allegations being used as wedges in divorce cases.

Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) said the gap in the law has suggested that either spousal rape isn’t taken as seriously as other sexual violence or that it doesn’t ever happen.

“This is especially concerning, as a spouse should be the most trusted person in a marriage," Kunze said on the Senate floor. "And it is even more egregious to think that in our state in 2024, it is lawful to to rape your spouse.”

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), the bill's joint sponsor who’s introduced measures to close the spousal rape loophole twice before, said the state has taken "a step forward in eliminating this archaic loophole."

“I recall it first coming to my attention that Ohio needed a spousal rape bill and to address that actually in the early 90s. And while Ohio addressed parts of the law, then this loophole remained," Antonio said.

After passing the House in November with only one “no” vote – from Rep. Bill Dean (R-Xenia) – the bill now goes to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.