South Carolina Domestic-Violence Law Discriminates Against LGBT Couples

(CN) – People in same-sex relationships in South Carolina are entitled to the same protections against domestic violence as heterosexual couples, the state’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The plaintiff in the case, Jane Doe, Petitioner, v. State of South Carolina, sought a protective order against her former fiancee, also a woman, but was denied under the state’s domestic violence statute.

Under South Carolina law, only “household members,” defined as a “male and a female who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabited” are protected under the state’s domestic violence statutes.

The statute also extended protections to those who had children together but did not live together.

The existence of same-sex couples was not acknowledged by the law.

In his 20-page opinion, Acting Justice Costa Pleicones says state lawmakers have repeatedly tweaked the law over the year, but left the gender-based definition intact.

“In this case, we cannot find a reasonable basis for providing protection to one set of domestic violence victims — unmarried, cohabiting or formerly cohabiting, opposite-sex couples — while denying it to others,” Pleicones wrote.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose office argued the case on behalf of the state, said he would ask the court to reconsider its ruling.

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