Governor Justice signs bill eliminating marital assault exception

Charleston, WV (AP) – West Virginia has criminalized certain sexual assaults against a spouse for the first time under a law signed by Governor Jim Justice.

The law, signed Friday, removes marriage as a defense to first- and third-degree sexual assault.

Until 1976, West Virginia authorities could not charge a married person with penetrative rape of their spouse.

The Legislature changed the law at the urging of then-Republican Senator Judith Herndon, the only woman in the Legislature at the time.

The bill’s sponsor, GOP Sen. Ryan Weld of Brooke County, says there are two crimes of sexual violence in state code: penetrative rape, and secondly, the forcible touching of a person’s sexual organs, breasts, buttocks or anus by another person.

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