Emily Rice Published

Lawmakers Close Marital Sexual Assault Loophole

A gavel rests on a wooden block. In the background is a scale representing checks and balances.Africa Studio/Adobe Stock

Senate Bill 190 eliminates marriage as a defense for first and third-degree sexual assault in West Virginia.

The bill requires that there was physical force that overcame earnest resistance.

Lead sponsor of the bill, Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, said he is following in the steps of his predecessor, the late Sen. Judith Herndon, who removed the marital exception from the state’s sexual assault code. She was the only woman in the Senate at the time.

In West Virginia, sexual assault is in most cases considered rape. Sexual abuse is unwanted groping or otherwise unwanted touching inappropriately.

Previously, the state’s sexual offense statute that defined “marriage” allowed exemptions for certain kinds of assault when people are married or “living together as husband and wife regardless of the legal status of their relationship.”

The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 26, and the House on Friday unanimously.