Legislative Update: Locally sponsored bill on spousal rape heads to governor’s desk

Spousal rape

A bill that would remove spousal exceptions from Ohio’s laws on rape and other sexual offenses has passed the House and Senate and now goes to Gov. Mike DeWine.

The Senate voted 32-0 in favor of the bill on April 24. Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, whose district includes all of Portage County, was listed as one of 26 Senate cosponsors and voted yes.

Republican Rep. Gail Pavliga, whose district covers most of Portage County, is among the bipartisan cosponsors of House Bill 161. She and Republican Rep. Steve Demetriou, whose district covers the rest of Portage County, voted in favor of the bill Nov. 29.

In testimony on the bill, sponsors Rep. Brett Hillyer and then-Rep. Jessica Miranda, said state law has loopholes, including one regarding threat of force or violence among married couples. “This means that a person can drug their spouse, rendering them unconscious and unable to consent, rape them, and still be shielded from prosecution under current law.”

Miranda, who left the House on April 13 to become Hamilton County auditor, said lawmakers have been working to remove the loophole since 1985, the Ohio Capital Journal reported. The last effort, in 2022, couldn’t make it out of committee.


DeWine on April 23 signed into law House Bill 34, which permits a prospective juror who is a breast-feeding mother to be excused from jury service, his office announced.

The bill, first introduced in the House in February 2023, passed unanimously in the House in June and then on April 10, 2024, in the Senate. Portage County’s Reps. Pavliga and Demetriou and Sen. Sykes voted yes.

Among its proponents are the Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance, the Catholic Conference of Ohio, the Center for Christian Virtue and the Hamilton County Jury Commissioner’s Office in Cincinnati.

In written testimony, Bradley Seitz of the commissioner’s office said breastfeeding already is considered a reasonable excuse from jury duty. However, he said a law would make it easier to inform prospective jurors and the information could be included on the summons and the county’s website.

Transgender restrictions

A bill restricting bathroom and locker room use for transgender students passed a House committee with Pavliga among those voting yes.

House Bill 183 mandates “that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth,” the Ohio Capital Journal reports. “It would also prohibit schools from allowing students to share overnight accommodations with the opposite sex.”

The vote in the Higher Education Committee was 10-5 along party lines. A vote in the full House has not been set.

The bill covers K-12 schools and colleges.

In recent years, 11 states, including Kentucky and Florida, have enacted laws that restrict trans people’s access to restrooms in schools or government-operated buildings, NBC News reported.

In related news, Ohio’s ban on gender-affirming care is on a temporary hold because of a Franklin County judge’s ruling. Attorney General Dave Yost has vowed to uphold the law that was set to take effect April 24.

House Bill 68, it has been reported, “would ban gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18, as well as ban transgender student-athletes from competing in women’s and girls’ sports.”

Freelance writer Mary Kay Quinn can be reached at [email protected]

Mary Kay Quinn
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