California Becomes First State to Prohibit 'Stealthing,' Amends Marital Rape Law

California became the first state to ban "stealthing," or removing a condom without permission during intercourse, and it amended the definition of marital rape.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Thursday that makes it illegal to remove a condom without fir stobtaining verbal consent, which was proposed by Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

"This law is the first of its kind in the nation, but I urge other states to follow in California's direction and make it clear that stealthing is not just immoral but illegal," Garcia said.

Newsom also approved a second bill proposed by Garcia which amended the marital rape law. The bill instead treats the rape of a spouse the same as the rape of a non-spouse, removing an exemption if the victim is married to the perpetrator.

"Rape is rape," Garcia said. "And a marriage license is not an excuse for committing one of society's most violent and sadistic crimes."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

California Stealthing Law
California became the first state to outlaw "stealthing," or removing a condom during intercourse without first receiving permission from your partner. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill and an amendment to the marital rape law on October 7. Getty Images

The new measure amends the state's civil code, adding the act to the state's civil definition of sexual battery. That makes it clear that victims can sue perpetrators for damages, including punitive damages.

Garcia originally tried to make stealthing a crime in 2017 after a Yale University study that year said acts of stealthing were increasing against both women and gay men.

Legislative analysts said then that it could already be considered misdemeanor sexual battery, though it is rarely prosecuted given the difficulty in proving that a perpetrator acted intentionally instead of accidentally.

The Erotic Service Providers Legal Educational Research Project supported the bill, saying it could allow sex workers to sue clients who remove condoms.

Lawmakers in New York and Wisconsin previously proposed related legislation.

The marital rape exemption dates to an era when women were expected to obey their husbands. California had been one of 11 states to distinguish between spousal rape and other forms of sexual assault.

There is no difference in the maximum penalties, but those convicted of spousal rape currently can be eligible for probation instead of prison or jail. They must register as sex offenders under current law only if the act involved the use of force or violence and the spouse was sentenced to state prison.

On Wednesday, Newsom approved extending the statute of limitations for victims to file civil claims if they were sexually assaulted by law enforcement officers who were on duty, in uniform, or armed at the time.

He also approved a bill increasing access to diversion programs for youth who commit nonviolent felonies, with the goal of encouraging more rehabilitation.