A state law that allows some instances of marital rape to go largely unpunished has been stricken from the books.
Known as a "pre-existing relationship defense," the loophole allows people charged with sexual assault against a spouse to use their relationship as a legal defense — in other words, because they were married to the victim at the time of the assault, they can't be prosecuted.
On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that repeals the pre-existing relationship defense in cases of criminal sexual assault. You can view the signing in the video below:
As the Star Tribune noted earlier this year, the loophole specifically protected spouses from prosecution in cases involving sexual penetration with someone who is "mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless" — which is otherwise a crime under Minnesota law.
Forcible rape, the paper pointed out, was not included in the so-called “voluntary relationship” statue, which dates back to the 1970s.
Its repeal, which was approved by the state legislature, is thanks to the efforts of Jenny Teeson, a rape victim who did not get justice because of this technicality.
She took on the law after she discovered evidence that her ex-husband had raped her while the two were still married, the Duluth News Tribune notes. She had found video of her husband raping her while she was drugged and unconscious; nonetheless, he could not be prosecuted for rape.
As the paper says, Teeson spent more than a year lobbying the legislature for change.
Gov. Walz thanked her during the ceremony, saying:
I want to recognize the grace, tenacity, and courage of Jenny Teeson, who took a horrendous experience and turned it into action to make Minnesota better.
"This reprehensible exception should never have been part of our criminal statutes," he added.
The law goes into effect July 1.