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Ohio Legislators Clash Over a Bill Addressing Spousal Rape

visual representation of rape

In a shocking turn of events during Wednesday’s House session, the approval of House Bill 161, a nonpartisan proposal aimed at eliminating an outdated provision of Ohio law protecting spouses from prosecution in cases of rape, took an unexpected turn.

The bill, which sought to remove the marital exception for sexual battery and other sex crimes, was sponsored by Rep. Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, and Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville. It received overwhelming support, with 75 out of 99 House members from both Republicans and Democrats backing the measure. 

However, Rep. Bill Dean, R-Xenia, stood as the sole “no” vote, drawing widespread criticism for his stance on a bill that aimed to rectify a law treating married women as property subject to their spouses’ whims. The bill, which now moves to the Ohio Senate, ensures that spouses, irrespective of gender, can testify against their partners in court cases involving sexual crimes. 

The legislation is particularly significant given the prevalence of marital rape, with about 14% of married women reporting being raped by their spouses, according to data from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The bill is a step towards restoring humanity and justice for victims, challenging the archaic notion that spousal rape is not a criminal offense. 

Rep. Dean’s controversial stance on the bill raises questions about the remaining 23 members who did not vote on the measure. While some may have had legitimate reasons for absence, the importance of the bill makes their lack of participation notable. Rep. Dean’s views on rape align with his past positions, as he is part of a group of Ohio lawmakers seeking to strip the judiciary of its constitutional right to rule on cases related to abortion access. 

In a startling statement after the vote, Rep. Dean expressed his belief that marital relations between a husband and wife cannot be considered rape. He went on to say that the law could be used as a wedge between spouses and families. This perspective, which dismisses the gravity of spousal rape, has drawn strong criticism for being disgraceful, disrespectful, and disturbingly obtuse. 

The article emphasizes that spousal rape is not a mere wedge issue; it is a sickening betrayal of the vows taken in marriage. The author argues that such views are devoid of love, honor, and cherishing and instead reflect a desire for control, dominance, and savagery. The piece underscores that spousal rape laws are not only about legalities but about recognizing the humanity of individuals within a marriage. 

Drawing from the author’s knowledge of Rep. Dean’s background in Xenia, the article points out that his views do not align with the community’s values or the local police department’s commitment to justice. The author expresses concern that Ohio is among the 11 states still holding onto such archaic laws. 

Concluding on a hopeful note, the article calls on Ohio’s senators to recognize the importance of the bill and align with the 75 representatives who voted in favor of its passage. It emphasizes that the issue at hand transcends political lines and should be a matter of basic human decency, urging lawmakers to acknowledge that rape is unequivocally wrong, regardless of the legal relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. 

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USA Today, Ohio Republican says married men can’t rape their wives. His pro-spousal rape vote is repulsive, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/columnists/2023/11/30/spousal-rape-ohio-loophole-republican-lawmaker-vote/71756044007/ 

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