Case name: M.E. v. T.J.
UPDATE: On December 31, 2020, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that unmarried people in same-sex dating relationships can no longer be excluded from domestic violence protections. Read more about the decision here.
North Carolina is currently the only state in the nation whose laws that provide protections to survivors of domestic violence do not apply equally to those in same-sex relationships. As part of our work to advance LGBTQ equality, the ACLU of North Carolina and attorney Amily McCool of the Scharff Law Firm are challenging that unequal policy in court on behalf of a survivor of domestic violence who was denied a protective order simply because the person who made violent threats against her also happened to be a woman.
In North Carolina, survivors of domestic violence can ask a court for a domestic violence protective order, sometimes called a “50B” to refer to its chapter in state law, that would grant them a range of legal protections against their abuser. If the court grants a 50B protective order and the abuser violates it, they are subject to criminal penalties.
However, a domestic violence protective order is only available to people who are defined as having a “personal relationship” under state law. That language currently specifies that people who are in or have been in a dating relationship and do not live together can only receive such protections if they are “persons of the opposite sex.” That means that 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 is unconstitutional discrimination, plain and simple.