Unlikely Opponents Find Common Ground
STATE: SC Equality and Litigation Task Force to File Amicus Brief with SC Supreme Court Supporting AG Wilson on Domestic Violence Ruling
Columbia – SC Equality, the state’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, announced Aug. 4 it is in full support of the State of South Carolina’s efforts to have the Criminal Domestic Violence statute corrected to cover all unmarried victims of CDV - gay and straight.
A statement said, “We also are pleased that our coalition partners, South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), are standing with us and the State of South Carolina on this important issue.”
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled a section of the state’s domestic violence law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it discriminates against gay couples. The court focused on a statute providing that any unmarried victim who once shared a home with a batterer can only seek an order of protection if that batterer is of the opposite sex. The court ruled the language violates the rights of unmarried same-sex victims.
However, the Court found that the only remedy to the constitutional violation was to strike the section in its entirety, thereby leaving all unmarried couples --- both gay and straight --- without protection.
Both parties in the lawsuit, along with numerous concerned organizations, are supporting the Attorney General’s efforts to have the Court reconsider its decision and to provide a remedy that will allow protection from domestic abuse to extend to all couples.
SC Equality Executive Director Jeff Ayers commends Attorney General Wilson (two men who have found themselves on opposite sides of legal battles in the past) and the State of South Carolina on taking this important stance.
Ayers said, “Attorney General Wilson and I had a productive meeting and we now find ourselves on the same side of an issue. Attorney General Wilson supports the protection of any victim of domestic violence, including those in same sex relationships, whether the partners are married or unmarried. That is positive news, and I commend him on his position. The bigger point here is that the state of South Carolina supports protection of victims of domestic violence no matter their sexual orientation. I would say that is great progress for South Carolina!”
Documents filed with the state’s supreme court asking for a stay in its decision stated the State’s position: “In short, the state supports the constitutional inclusion of same-sex couples in the definition of ‘household members’ but does not support striking down that definition in the process.”
SC Equality’s lawyers and their colleagues on the statewide Litigation Task Force will be filing an “amicus brief” with the state’s highest court in support of the State’s request for a rehearing on the matter, to ensure that all victims of domestic violence are protected — married and unmarried — gay and straight.