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On May 16, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed a bill into law ending marriage as a legal defense against rape and other sex offenses. The Maryland General Assembly voted unanimously in both chambers in support of changing this outdated law. Senate bill 129 provides important rights to survivors married to abusive partners who want to pursue charges against their spouse. With the repeal of this archaic law, abusive spouses in Maryland won’t be able to defend themselves against charges of rape and sexual violence just because they were married at the time.

Tahirih advocated alongside the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and other local partners in favor of Senate Bill 129 that will enable survivors in Maryland to pursue justice against their abusive spouses.

“When you are an immigrant and a survivor of gender-based violence, the marriage defense to rape was yet another obstacle to accessing safety and justice,” said Daniella Prieshoff, Greater DC Baltimore Senior Supervising Attorney. “Maryland’s repeal of the spousal defense to rape and sexual offenses sends a clear message that a survivor has a right to bodily autonomy and consent, whether they are married or not. Senate Bill 129 brings us another step closer to ensuring that gender-based violence survivors are treated equally in the eyes of the law.”

“Providing a spousal defense to sexual assault has always been abhorrent. It is particularly disquieting when we think about our clients facing a forced or child marriage,” said Alex Goyette, Senior Public Policy Associate. “This is the second year in a row that Maryland has taken steps to better serve survivors of forced marriage, after limiting child marriage last year. We applaud the state’s progress on these important issues and the survivors, advocates, and legislators who’ve worked hard to keep the state moving forward.”

We celebrate the local advocates in Maryland who led this effort and extend our gratitude to the legislators who championed this bill and supported the rights of survivors in the state.