Domestic Violence Protection for Gay People
What Legal Protections Do Gay People Have From Domestic Violence?
Although one would assume that the laws concerning domestic violence would protect everyone, this is sadly not the case. In many states, laws have been enacted to make it difficult for victims of same-sex domestic violence to get the protection they need.
In all states, courts can issue domestic violence protective orders, which are perhaps the most significant legal remedy available to victims of abuse. Because they are created specifically to combat the rather unique problem of domestic violence, they are easy to request (unlike injunctions and restraining orders, which can be costly/difficult to obtain), and give judges broad discretion to restrain or direct the behavior of the abuser, without the need of criminal charges.
For instance, they can evict an abuser from a household, regardless of who is on the lease, prevent his access to jointly owned property, or force him to relinquish any weapons owned. The biggest benefit is that it allows police to arrest an abuser on the spot without any need of a warrant or criminal activity, since violating a protective order is itself a crime.
Can Gay People Get Domestic Violence Protection Orders?
It depends on the state. Most states are gender neutral in their description of such protection orders, but some states have laws written from a heterosexual perspective only, which can make it difficult (or impossible) for a battered lesbian, gay man, bisexual or transgender person to escape the cycle of abuse. Without these orders, a person may have to leave their home and their possessions, or suffer huge financial losses to escape. Even worse, a gay victim of domestic violence may find him/herself arrested by the police, if they can't determine who the aggressor is, or automatically assume it's "the bigger one."
What States Have Laws Concerning Gay Domestic Violence?
- Seven states have laws the clearly prevent domestic violence protection for same-sex abuse, meaning that the law specifically states it is for opposite-sex couples only. These states are: Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia
- Three states have laws that, while not specifically stating that domestic violence protection is for opposite sex couples only, have been interpreted by courts to generally not include same-sex couples: These states are: Florida, Maryland, and Mississippi
- Four states have laws that clearly allow domestic violence protection for same-sex abuse, meaning that the law specifically mentions same-sex couples as a protected class. These states are: Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio
- The remaining 37 states have laws that are gender neutral, meaning that same-sex victims should be able to get a domestic violence protection order (though this is not always the case).
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are in an abusive same-sex relationship, the most important thing is that you get out as soon as you can and head to somewhere safe, like a family member's house or a shelter. Even if you are in one of the states that generally prevents same-sex couples from getting the protection they need, a good family lawyer may know how to secure other remedies for your problem, and you should contact one immediately to find out what kind of protections are available to you in your state.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 12-16-2010 02:15 PM PST
Did you find this article informative?