To Catch a Snooping Spouse: Reevaluating the Roots of the Spousal Wiretap Exception in the Digital Age

Marriage is, and continues to be, a reactive institution. Although the
origins of marriage date back over 6000 years, the marital relationship is
continuously shaped by widely held social, economic, and legal views regarding
the rights available to those party to the union. As these views change over time,
the way partners interact with one another privately and publicly also changes.

While the modern institution of marriage looks quite different in our
nation than it did fifty years ago because of Supreme Court decisions
championing marriage equality, there is one specific group whose position
within the spousal relationship also begs focus: women. Women were long
subject to subservient positions in their marital relationships; even with the
passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, the newfound political equality
between men and women did not automatically lead to the dissolution of
female subordination. Overt social and legal subordination of women was the
norm until the latter half of the twentieth century when the 1960s women’s
rights movement began. The culprit for this treatment was common-law
American coverture, where a female’s legal status was absorbed into her
husband’s upon marriage, including her ability to sue or own property. As a
result, women were legally and financially beholden to their spouses.

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