The Minnesota Senate is poised to repeal a longtime exemption to the state’s marital rape law that has been widely criticized by victims and their advocates.
A unanimous voice vote Thursday by the Senate Finance Committee cleared the repeal measure for a full floor vote by the full chamber as early as next week.
The state House voted unanimously last month to overturn a 1970s-era provision that exempts spouses from certain kinds of rape charges involving victims who are mentally or physically incapacitated.
A similar repeal effort failed last year when it was folded into a massive spending package that fell to a veto by then-Gov. Mark Dayton.
This year, the repeal is expected to pass as a stand-alone bill, easing its path to becoming law. It was backed in emotional testimony from Jenny Teeson, an Andover woman who recounted for lawmakers how she discovered a video of her being drugged and raped by her husband at the time. Under current law, she said, he could not be prosecuted for third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
“By the next morning, I was ready to go to work to make sure that no one in a similar situation hears, ‘I’m sorry, the charges have been dropped,’ ” Teeson told the Senate’s Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on Monday.
Her case is not unusual. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission has estimated that repealing the law would result in seven new convictions each year.
Minnesota is one of about a dozen states with some form of exception for spouses or cohabitating partners accused of sexual assault. Spouses can be charged with forcible rape in Minnesota, but they are exempt from a provision making it illegal to engage in sexual penetration with someone who is “mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.”