RALEIGH, N.C.-- In a victory for LGBTQ equality, unmarried people in same-sex dating relationships can no longer be excluded from domestic violence protections according to a ruling today from the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the case M.E. v. T.J. North Carolina was the last state in the nation to deny domestic violence protections to those in same-sex relationships.

The ACLU of North Carolina and attorney Amily McCool of the Scharff Law Firm challenged that discriminatory law on behalf of M.E., 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. 

“I'm glad the court is expanding protections from domestic violence to all couples, but this type of discrimination shouldn't have happened in the first place,” said M.E. “I’m hopeful that moving forward, this ruling will help those who might find themselves in an already tough situation.”

“The court did the right thing by recognizing that our domestic violence laws should apply equally to everyone in the state regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” said Irena Como, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “Today’s ruling is an important victory for equality. Intimate partner violence does not discriminate, and neither should state laws protecting people from that violence.”

People in same-sex relationships are just as likely as people in opposite-sex relationships to be survivors of domestic violence. According to the North Carolina Department of Justice, more than 157,000 North Carolinians were survivors of domestic violence in 2014. In today’s ruling, the court noted that “the ‘same-sex’ or ‘opposite-sex’ nature” of “‘dating relationships’ shall not be a factor in the decision to grant or deny” a domestic violence protective order (p. 92).

Attorney General Josh Stein, Equality North Carolina, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and other groups submitted briefs in the case urging the court to find that excluding same-sex dating couples from domestic violence protections is unconstitutional.