RALEIGH, N.C.-- In a victory for LGBTQ+ equality, the N.C. Supreme Court upheld a Court of Appeals decision establishing that people in same-sex dating relationships cannot be excluded from domestic violence protections. The opinion in M.E. v. T.J was issued after the defendant appealed the December 2020 Court of Appeals decision holding that it was unconstitutional to exclude LGBTQ+ couples from domestic violence protections. North Carolina was the last state in the nation to deny certain domestic violence protections to those in same-sex dating relationships. The N.C. Supreme Court opinion is available here.
The ACLU of North Carolina and attorney Amily McCool of the Scharff Law Firm represent M.E., a survivor of domestic violence who was denied a protective order simply because the person who was verbally and physically threatening to her also happened to be a woman.
“No matter where we come from or who we love, we should all be able to agree that everyone deserves to have protections from domestic violence,” said M.E. “I appreciate the state Supreme Court being clear that no one who is a victim of domestic violence will be denied their right to have protection.”
“We appreciate the N.C. Supreme Court’s clarification that the Court of Appeals ruling stands undisturbed against meritless, merely technical attacks. Our state constitution provides robust protections against sex-based discrimination, including discrimination arising from sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Irena Como, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “In holding that the administration of justice prohibits the elevation of form over function, especially in domestic violence proceedings involving people who have been traumatized, today’s decision ensures that the legal system should conform to the needs of people, not the other way around.”
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.
Attorney General Josh Stein, Governor Roy Cooper, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Legal Aid of North Carolina, the North Carolina Justice Center, the Pauli Murray LGBTQ+ Bar Association, and a group of ten former North Carolina District Court judges submitted amicus briefs in the case urging the court to uphold the Court of Appeals ruling that excluding same-sex dating couples from domestic violence protections is unconstitutional.