… because we have a law on the books that, perhaps unintentionally, fails to protect domestic violence victims in same-sex relationships and since that feels all kinds of unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court is trying to decide what to do.
Um, change the law seems the simple choice, but, as we’ve come to learn about South Carolina, the state “don’t do simple.”
It all began when a woman tried to get a protective order against her former fiancée, also a woman, and was denied because the state’s domestic violence law defines “household members” as a spouse, former spouse, people with a child in common, or specifically men and women who are or have lived together , but does not mean unmarried same-sex couples.
I have a thought, howsabout rewording the law from “man and wife” to “spouse”? Howsabout rewording the law and making it gender-neutral? Then it would apply to two male spouses, two female spouses, two opposite-sex spouses … or two people. Simple, but alas, South Carolina.
Perhaps the state could take a page from Ohio, where the same issue came up and that state’s Supreme Court adopted the use of gender-neutral references in family court cases.
Huh, where did I hear that … oh, yeah, I said it.
South Carolina Chief Justice Costa Pleicones is just as flummoxed by the law:
“The only people who are not protected under this statute right now are same-sex cohabiters or former cohabiters, is that it? This statute is pretty clearly unconstitutional in its discriminatory impact upon same-sex couples. So tell me, what’s the remedy?”
Semantics. Change the wording. Call someone in charge in Ohio and ask how they did it.
But wait, it gets more stupid, because the law used to apply to anyone, same-sex or opposite sex; it applied to fathers beating sons; against the law. It applied to Mama’s beating their daughters; a crime. Husbands and wives; two men living together.
They were all guilty of committing the crime of domestic violence but a while back South Carolina changed the wording in the law making it restrictive to male-female couples only, which Associate Justice Don Beatty says clearly shows that state lawmakers were specifically keeping same-sex, unmarried couples from being included under South Carolina’s criminal domestic statute.
Naturally, state prosecutor Emory Smith has a differing view and says the changes were part of a “general cleanup” of the law, but that the overall intent of which was to protect people … even if it doesn't protect all people. And he feels that the law doesn’t need to be rewritten but instead suggests the court simply interpret the law as “male or female,” not “male and female.”
Except that’s not the way the law was written, it is not the wording in the law, so any court in this state, any police department , can say that a same-sex couple does not deserve protections from domestic violence.
Just change the words. Protect all South Carolinians from domestic violence.