Are LBGTQ+ couples afforded the same rights under Domestic Violence Protection Orders?
Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPOs)
In 1979, the General Assembly added a chapter to the General Statutes to provide for remedies for domestic violence, thus the creation of Chapter 50 statutes. These statutes made remedies available for persons of the opposite sex who are spouses, former spouses, or persons who were living together as if they were married. In 1995, the statute was expanded to include situations involving parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and parties who were unmarried but had a child together. In 1997, the statute was expanded to include the language “personal relationship” to include persons who were “current or former household members,” and “persons of the opposite sex who are in or have been in a dating relationship.” Though the language expanded to include dating relationships, it still excluded persons in same-sex relationships, and still does currently.
Current DVPO Language
Even almost twenty years after Chapter 50 of the North Carolina General Statutes were created, personal and intimate relationships weren’t adopted to the statue until 1997, and over twenty years later, they still do not include protection for members of the LGBT+ community. This exclusion has affected cases as recent as 2020. In M.E. v. T.J., a woman that was in a dating relationship with another woman sought the protection of a 50B domestic violence order. The woman was not granted a DVPO simply because the couple was not of the opposite sex, and did not qualify. The court noted that this was the sole reason the DVPO was not granted, as all the other requirements were met and the alleged act of violence warranted it. The Court held that this provision was in fact unconstitutional, and that 50-Bs shall include the language “All persons who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship.”
In January of 2021, House Bill 33 was introduced, and it proposed to amend the 50B statute to remove the “opposite sex” language from the statue, and include “persons in a romantic relationship who live together or have lived together” and “are persons who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship.” Currently, N.C.G.S §50B-1 defines a personal relationship as “persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together” and “are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship.” The Bill was revisited in April 2021 for another proposal, but has since not reached the approval needed to pass the bill into law.
You can keep up with the status of the bill here.
DVPOs & LGBTQ+ Spouses
The Chapter 50 language regarding current or former spouses does not specify that the spouses must be of the opposite sex. However, it is possible that someone of a current or former same-sex marriage attempting to obtain a DVPO would have to argue this point in court.
If you have questions about Domestic Violence Protection Orders in North Carolina, schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys at Smith Dominguez. We will be happy to help!
If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence and needs help finding crisis resources, visit www.nccadv.org/our-services/lgbtq.