RALEIGH — North Carolina is currently the only state in the nation whose laws to protect survivors of domestic violence do not apply equally to those in same-sex relationships. Domestic violence, however, does not discriminate on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. Partners in same-sex relationships are just as likely to experience abuse and violence.
While same-sex couples in North Carolina won the right to marry in 2014, the NC state law denies LGBTQ people equal protection under the law. In North Carolina, survivors of domestic violence can request a domestic violence protective order that grants them a range of legal protections against their abuser. If abusers violate a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO), they are subject to criminal penalties.
Yet, a domestic violence protective order is only available to persons in a relationship if they are “persons of the opposite sex.”
An unmarried person can receive protection from an opposite-sex partner with whom they didn’t live, but not a same-sex partner. Such unequal treatment for same-sex and opposite-sex couples can be unconstitutional discrimination.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a case in the Wake County District Court to grant a domestic violence protective order to a person formerly in a same sex relationship.
Courts recognized that the victim was “terrified” of her ex who had “caused [her] to suffer substantial emotional distress by placing her in fear of bodily injury and continued torment[.]” The court did not grant a protective order for one reason: her ex was a woman.
The ACLU argues that domestic violence laws should apply equally to everyone in the state, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Intimate partner violence does not discriminate, and neither should state laws.