Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, says the lack of rape-kit processing is "an atrocity."
Utah House approves bill to protect against dating violence
Politics » House rejects amendment that sponsor said would have codified anti-gay bias.
First Published Feb 15 2013 05:21 pm • Last Updated Feb 16 2013 03:44 pm

Utahns who are attacked or threatened by a dating partner would be able to go to court and seek a protective order keeping the partner away under a bill that passed the Utah House on Friday.

The passage of HB50 did not come without a fight over whether the new dating protective order should extend to same-sex couples.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

An amendment, offered by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, would have defined dating as a precursor to marriage. But because Utah prohibits same-sex couples from marrying, supporters of the measure argued that gay and lesbian couples would not be protected under Christensen’s proposal.

"I reject the institutionalization of discrimination that is present in this [amendment]," said Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, the sponsor of the bill. "What this amendment does is say we offer protection if Sally were to commit an act of violence against Bob or Bob against Sally, but we don’t care if Jane hurts Sally."

Christensen denied his bill had anything to do with sexual orientation and that he was only trying to make a statement in favor of "public morality" in the bill.

"If they’re going to talk about a dating relationship, it recognizes there is such a thing as public morality," Christensen said. "We don’t look the other way and say there aren’t standards that apply to any situation prior to marriage."

Legislative attorneys had cautioned that, if the amendment was interpreted to not extend protective orders to same-sex couples, the courts could find that the bill violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

The House rejected Christensen’s amendment by a large margin on a voice vote and went on to pass Seelig’s bill by a comfortable 61-11 margin, sending it to the Senate.

"Yes this is needed. Yes there is a gap. Yes people are dying because this is not available," Seelig said.

Between 2004 and 2011, Seelig said, 15 Utahns were killed as a result of dating violence.

story continues below
story continues below

"This is a dark corner of our state we haven’t had the opportunity to talk much about," said Ned Searle, who serves on the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

The measure allows anyone age 18 or over in a dating relationship and who has been the victim of violence or a threat to obtain a dating protective order that lasts 180 days. Violations of the order are punishable as a class B misdemeanor.

Gun rights groups had opposed the bill initially, fearing that a gun owner that is the target of a protective order could have gun rights restricted. However, a protective order issued to a dating partner does not restrict gun rights under federal law, as a cohabitant partner or spouse would.

Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, said he supported the bill, but encouraged anyone who has been the victim of violence or is fearful for his or her safety to take additional steps.

"Take the necessary steps to protect yourself," said Lifferth. "You should file a restraining order. You should also get a concealed carry permit and a handgun and the necessary training to defend yourself until law enforcement arrives."

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, argued there were already existing remedies for assaults or rapes under the law and the requirement of going to court for a protective order puts overburdened judges in the position of being "dating mediators."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.