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Bill to close loophole in marital criminal sexual conduct laws set for hearing

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Legislation to close a loophole in Michigan law that could stop prosecution in some instances of marital rape will get a committee hearing today.

Rape in a marriage, just as in any other relationship, is illegal in Michigan.

But there's an exception in Michigan law that could provide for a legal defense. Under the law, someone cannot "be charged or convicted solely because" of a prosecution based on their spouse being mentally incapacitated at the time.

“There are in fact instances where people were not charged for assaulting their spouse because this law was still on the books, both in this state and in others. So, it’s important to close it up,” state Representative Laurie Pohutsky(D-Livonia) said.

She sponsors the bill to end the exception that shields people from facing charges. Each legislative session since she first won office, she’s tried to get a version of it passed.

Last year, Pohutsky came the closest when her bill made it out of the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote. But it stalled in the Senate.

She said lawmakers need to be more proactive in removing outdated laws.

“I think we have a tendency to look back on things like this and say, ‘Oh, well they’re not being enforced so there’s no urgency.’ And that’s ... not the case. Things like this do very much impact people in the here and now,” Pohutsky said.

There are other old policies she pointed to, like Michigan’s continued allowance of child marriage, she said need to go. Earlier this year, the Legislature voted to repeal Michigan’s defunct 1931 abortion ban.

Today’s hearing before the House Criminal Justice Committee is set for 9 a.m.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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