Marriage is still a defense to some sex crimes in Maryland. Last session, Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield and Senator Susan Lee introduced bills to repeal marriage as a defense to rape and sex offenses (SB250/HB147), but the bill died after amendments were added that would have diluted a person's ability to say no to a spouse or partner. MCASA strongly supported the bills as introduced and strongly opposed the amendments, firmly believing that everyone should have the right to consent or refuse sexual touching.
The 19th, an online news outlet, published an article about the historical roots of marriage loopholes to sex crimes laws and highlighted Maryland's efforts.
In Maryland, a person cannot be prosecuted for certain sex crimes — including some types of second-degree rape and third- and fourth-degree sexual offenses. The article explains how attempts to remove this exemption have faced a lot of backlash from those who struggle to understand consent.
Senator Susan Lee, one of the lead sponsors of Maryland's bill, said that until the legislation is signed into law, the loopholes in Maryland support a culture where marriage is consent to sex, and a married person has less legal protection than an unmarried person.
Lisae Jordan, executive director and counsel of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, agrees. She said people often express shock when they learn that marriage is effectively used as a defense to sexual violence under the law.
“There is just a belief that we’ve made more progress than we have,” Jordan said.
Senator Lee, Delegate Crutchfield, and MCASA have all pledged to continue the fight to repeal marriage as a defense to sex crimes next session.