Bill closing spousal rape loophole in Ohio Revised Code makes it out of committee
Not all forms of rape are created equal - at least that's what the current form of the Ohio Revised Code implies.
That's because spousal rape, is still technically legal in the state due to wording in the code that exempts it in certain forms.
A bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by State Reps. Jessica E. Miranda and Brett Hudson Hillyer, looking to close this loophole by removing the exemptions in several sections of the code, recently passed an Ohio House Committee and is moving forward to house consideration.
In section 2907.02 of the Ohio Revised Code, it states "no person shall engage in sexual conduct with another who is not the spouse of the offender or who is the spouse of the offender but is living separate and apart from the offender."
It's the qualification of being one's spouse that creates the loophole in which spousal rape is still legal in Ohio.
Going further into the revised code, several sections in which rape is defined includes the qualification "not the spouse of the offender."
In one section, that clearly defines sexual coercion, drugging the victim, having sex with someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if the victim mistakenly identifies the offender as their spouse - this exemption is included, meaning as long as the offender is married to the victim, this entire section does not apply to them.
More surprising is the fact that the Ohio Revised Code permits the rape of a 13 year old child as long as that child is engaged to the offender.
Approximately 10-14% of married women are raped by their husbands in the United States. Approximately one third of women report having "unwanted sex" with their partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The coalition adds that 18% of female marital rape survivors reported that their children witnessed the assault.
The Ohio Revised Code's section on sexual assault and rape has been in effect since the at least the 1950's when it replaced Ohio's General Code.
According to a legal paper published by the Cleveland State Law Review in 1995, spousal rape exemptions or marital rape exemptions are based on an antiquated theory made by Sir Matthew Hale, a British jurist that lived in the 1600s. He posed that marital rape cannot exist because it is part of a matrimonial consent and contract made between a man and his wife - she loses her bodily autonomy.
Other states have this law in some form or another, California repealed its spousal rape laws in 2021 and Mississippi repealed its laws just this year.
Why these loopholes haven't been closed sooner in Ohio isn't entirely clear. Lawmakers have attempted to remove these loopholes from as early as 1985, according to the Cleveland State Law Review.
In 2003, forcible spousal rape was outlawed but rape when your spouse is impaired or unconscious is still legal.
More recently, in 2017, a bill seeking to remove these exemptions made it to a hearing in the state legislature but stalled soon after that.
In 2021, lawmakers introduced House Bill 121, which failed to make it to the committee stage of the process.
While it was passed at the committee level, it still has a long way to go before it amends the Ohio Revised Code. It needs to pass through the House floor, Senate and Governor's office.
A bill that would remove the statute of limitations for rape crimes, House Bill 124, has also been introduced in the house and is currently in the House Committee phase.
At this time, it is unclear if that bill will make it to the next stage.
21 news has reached out to the co-sponsors of this bill for comment.
Below is the current form of the proposal: