Rolly: Has time come for dating violence law?
In the wake of the troubling case of Republican activist Greg Peterson's suicide after he was charged with sexually assaulting several women, a Utah legislator is once again running a bill to stop date violence.
She and others have tried to get such a bill through the Legislature for eight years and so far have failed.
A reason: Someone accused of violence or threatening behavior toward a person he or she has dated might lose the right to own guns.
Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, is running a bill that would allow someone in a present or former dating relationship to get a protective order or stalking injunction against the person he or she believes is a threat. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfiled, and outgoing House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, have attempted the same thing in the past, to no avail.
Currently, only those who are or have been in a cohabitation relationship, have a child with or own property with the alleged abuser or stalker can obtain a protective order.
To extend that protection seems like a no-brainer, right?
Seelig has addressed concerns that a violator of a protective order would be prohibited from owning firearms under federal provisions by taking the federal-law protections out of the bill and making the penalty just a class B misdemeanor. So a violator in this case would not lose his or her gun rights.
She presented her bill to the State Sentencing Commission on Wednesday and members gave her suggestions on how to tweak some of the definitions of the bill so they won't conflict with other parts of the State Code.
Seelig also got a unanimous vote of approval from the Interim Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee last month, but not before some colorful testimony from members of the audience at that hearing.
Jackie deGaston is a Utah County attorney and Republican activist who threatened to sue the Republican Party four years ago after she lost her bid to unseat incumbent Curt Bramble at the Utah County GOP Convention. She told committee members she just doesn't see a problem here.
After Ned Searle, director of the State Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence, presented strong data showing the increasing violence and intimidation between people in dating relationships, and that only three percent of the cases where injunctions were sought were deemed to be unfounded, deGaston presented her own evidence to the committee: Her observations.
When Litvack asked her to provide data to back up her statement that many claims of abuse in seeking protective orders were frivolous and just used as weapons to get back at the other party, deGaston had none.
Data? We don't need no stinkin' data.
She did mention, to show her credentials, that she had worked in the same office with attorneys Mike Thompson, a former legislator who was ousted in his own party's convention several years ago, and Matt Hilton, who has been an attorney for the Utah Eagle Forum.
She also said young women get themselves in situations by making their own bad decisions. She was referred to by committee members the rest of the hearing as the "misinformed" witness.
This just might be the time the Dating Protection Act gets through.