HB 49 could have made marital rape a crime … but didn’t


Rep. Sara Rasmussen is aghast.

The provision in House Bill 49 that would have removed marriage as a defense against rape was stripped out by the House Democrat-led Majority on Wednesday, just before the majority passed the criminal justice bill over to the Senate.

Rasmussen spoke against taking that part out of the bill while on the House floor, and again today during a Republican Minority press conference.

Rasmussen told the story relayed to her by Standing Together Against Rape, where a woman who had gynecological surgery was home and sleeping with the help of a prescribed drug. She was not supposed to engage in sexual intercourse during her recovery. Her husband penetrated her sexually while she was sleeping and she ended up back in the clinic for further surgery.

He was not prosecuted because he had marriage as a defense for his actions, even though his wife could not consent to sex.

Rasmussen wanted reporters to note this is not just about Alzheimer’s patients who cannot consent to sex, or who have highly variable cognition, and may know their spouse at one moment, but not a few minutes later. This is about women of all ages, she said.

“The Majority said no. But that sounds like a crime and they didn’t want to be tough on that one,” she said.

Rep. Matt Claman said on the House floor that he thought that portion of the bill needed more work because of the variable nature of Alzheimer’s disease. He heads House Judiciary Committee and is one of SB 91’s biggest defenders.

That excuse wasn’t good enough for Rasmussen, who said today, “I won’t stop fighting.”

“This isn’t an issue just of women with Alzheimer’s,” she said, adding she was aware of other cases like the one she described. “This is women, all women.”

Rasmussen said she won’t be able to support HB 49 when it comes back from the Senate if it does not have the provision that protects women from rape within their marriages.

The provision to strengthen protections for women in these circumstances is also a priority of Gov. Michael Dunleavy.


  1. We have lost our collective minds if we believe 730,000 people need to send 60 representatives to an island for 121 days and that those representatives should discuss rape within marriage because the general population can’t grasp the intricacy of the topic.

    There is no hope.

  2. Gosh, the Uniform Code of Military Justice removed protections for men raping their wives over twenty years ago. I cannot believe Alaska laws are that backwards. Between permitting men to rape their wives and letting biological men participate in women’s sports, the liberals are setting women’s rights back decades. Who is that supposed to be engaged in a war on women? Oh….right….that’s us. Yeah, okay…sure. Doesn’t feel like it from my foxhole.

  3. Marriage should not be an excuse for rape. No means no. But unfortunately there have been many cases where there wasn’t a rape. This bill could open up a Pandora’s box by creating situations where disagreements can escalate to false charges that are difficult to defend against. Although it wasn’t within a marriage, remember Judge Kavanaugh’s experience.

    I personally know a military person whose wife cheated on him and when he found out, she then falsely accused him of rape. It unjustly ruined his career, resulted in incarceration and cost tens of thousands of dollars to clear his name. I’ve also lived with a parent who had dementia. There were many times one minute they agreed to something and forgot the next. My mother who had dementia swore that my sibling who was caretaking was a demon and trying to kill her.

    There are many sides to this and we need to avoid emotionally legislating a law that can wrongfully ruin an innocent life in an attempt to protect someone else’s rights. America has a habit of passing laws to prevent rare occurrences of a violation, which impact unintended multitudes all because of aspects not considered and thus needlessly destroying innocent lives. Be careful that the fix you propose does not become a greater problem than the initial trigger.

    • The problems you cite here are unrelated to marriage. It could be a girlfriend he cheated on and she falsely charged him with rape. Or his girlfriend could have been intoxicated and agreed at the time but forgot later. What this bill deals with is cases like one I read in “dear Abby” where her husband beat her and forced himself on her but when she called the police they told her they could not arrest the man since he was her spouse. Marriage or any other relationship should be irrelevant to what happened beyond being a caution to judges or juries determining guilt.

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