SC Supreme Court Asked to Rule Domestic Violence Law Unconstitutional

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a tougher criminal domestic violence law in June.


The South Carolina Supreme Court is being asked to take a case and rule that the state’s criminal domestic violence law is unconstitutional. Former state representative Bakari Sellers and his law partner Ally Benevento filed a petition with the court on behalf of their client, who is not named because she’s a victim of domestic abuse.

Their client was abused on two occasions by her former fiancée and tried to get an order of protection from a Richland County Family Court judge, but the judge denied the request because same-sex couples are not covered under the law.

The state’s Protection from Domestic Abuse Act provides protections for “household members,” which it defines as a spouse, former spouse, persons who have a child in common, or a male and female who are cohabitating or formerly have cohabitated. That means someone in a same-sex relationship but not married can’t get an order of protection.

“My client is in fear,” Sellers says. “She was getting abused not just at the hands of her victimizer but at the hands of the state as well.”

They contend that the state’s law is unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. He’s asking that the state Supreme Court strike the words “male and female” from the law.

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