By Amber Thatcher and Lorelei Olivas
SACRAMENTO, CA – California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that ended the distinction between spousal rape and non-marital rape.
Before this bill, spousal rape had the potential to carry a different penalty because it was distinguished from rape under California Penal Code.
While a conviction of spousal rape could send someone to prison for the same amount of time as non-marital rape, the distinction was that those convicted of spousal rape could request probation unlike those convicted of non-marital rape.
California is one of only nine states in the U.S. that held this distinction.
The signing of AB 1171 will require that rape and spousal rape crimes are provided equal treatment in legal proceedings, providing both categories of rape will no longer be distinguishable.
Any non-consensual sexual intercourse between spouses and non-spouses in the state of California will now receive uniform legal consequences following Newsom’s signature.
While marital rape was considered to be a punishable crime prior to the signing of this bill, the ability for those found guilty to be provided with a chance to plea bargain their sentences will no longer be granted in the state of California.
Guilty individuals will now additionally be required to register as sex offenders, according to the bill’s orders.
The California Public Defenders Association registered in opposition to the bill, raising economic and policy-based concerns that AB 1171 will remove discretion from judges and make it difficult for perpetrators of spousal rape to contact their children upon entering into California’s Sex Offender Registry.
Alternatively, this measure has gained widespread support from the likes of state lawmakers, District Attorneys and advocates of women’s rights throughout the state.
Co-author of the bill, Senator Dave Cortese (D-SF), explained how the signing of AB 1171 will not only level out the law relating to forcible sexual relations, but that “preventing this type of sexual abuse from occurring and promoting safety and respect for all” is a primary motive for the legislation.
Similarly, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin described the bill as a method of protecting sexual abuse victims in a broader sense, whether they are married to the perpetrators or not.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 10-14 percent of married women experience rape by their partner.