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Landmark Case Provides Access for Same-Sex Couples to Domestic Violence Protective Orders  

Author:  Anne L. Perry.

Source: Volume 27, Number 06, August/September 2022 , pp.87-88(2)

Domestic Violence Report

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This article examines the ruling and implications of a recent decision by North Carolina’s highest court in M.E. v. T.J. No. 18A21 (NORTH CAROLINA 2022). The decision recognizes that barring same-sex couples from receiving the full protection of domestic violence services is unconstitutional. At the time of the appellate opinion, North Carolina appeared to be the only state that expressly limited protective orders to opposite sex couples or household members. The historical barriers to protections for LGBTQ+ victims of domestic violence stemmed in part from U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence that codified bias against the gay community rooted in anti-sodomy laws. However, in June 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), the U.S. Supreme Court held that same-sex marriage is protected under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the wake of that landmark ruling, most states changed their domestic violence laws by statute to create gender-neutral language that did not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. North Carolina did not change its statute, and same-sex couples seeking a restraining order were forced to apply for the much-weaker Chapter 50C no-contact orders available under NC law. In M.E., the state supreme court found that denying same-sex couples the same protections as married heterosexual couples violated the Equal Protection clause. This article examines the statutory and judicial history and importance of this landmark ruling.

Keywords: M.E. v. T.J.; Chapter 50C No-Contact Orders; Domestic Violence Protective Orders for Same-Sex Couples

Affiliations:  1: Contributing Editor.

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