Domestic Violence Statute Vague Regarding Same Sex Married Couples
Strom Law Firm Attorneys Bakari Sellers and Alexandra Benevento are asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to strike down a portion of the new domestic violence statute, arguing that it is unconstitutional as applied to unmarried, same-sex couples.
Sellers and Benevento have petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of a victim who was physically assaulted by her same-sex partner and then denied an Order of Protection from the Family Court because unmarried, same-sex couples do not meet the statutory definition of “household member[s].” Both the domestic violence statutes and the Protection from Domestic Violence Act (which provides victims of domestic violence an avenue for obtaining an Order of Protection) define a “household member” as a “spouse, a former spouse, persons who have a child in common or a male and female who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabited. Unmarried, same-sex couples are excluded.
Sellers and Benevento argue that such an exclusion from the statutory definition of “household member” leaves unmarried, same-sex victims of abuse without the benefit of the same remedy afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. They argue that singling out unmarried, same-sex couples and denying them the same protections as married couples and unmarried heterosexual couples violates an individual’s right to due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution.
Without a remedy under the current statute, unmarried victims in abusive same-sex relationships are at risk of continuing violence and abuse.
Sellers and Benevento sincerely hope that swift change comes to South Carolina’s domestic violence laws so that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, can enjoy the same liberties and protections guaranteed to all.