In 2020, North Carolina was the only state in the nation whose laws that provided protections to survivors of domestic violence did 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 challenged 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 was only available to people who were defined as having a “personal relationship” under state law. That language specified that people who were in or had been in a dating relationship and did not live together could only receive such protections if they were “persons of the opposite sex.” That meant that an unmarried person could 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.

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.

On March 11, 2022, the N.C. Supreme Court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision establishing that people in same-sex dating relationships cannot be excluded from domestic violence protections. Read more about the opinion here.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Scharff Law Firm

Date filed

January 6, 2019


North Carolina Court of Appeals



Case number