Utahns who are attacked or threatened by a dating partner soon will be able to seek a protective order. Currently, only spouses or people who have lived together can seek such orders.
The Senate voted 24-4 to pass HB50, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.
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.
Utah’s Legislature has debated and rejected the bill for years — starting at least as early as 2006.
Critics raised concerns about whether minor dating spats could lead to orders, whether the bill should apply to same-sex couples and whether it could infringe on gun rights.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said he worries that misunderstandings, as young people are new to dating, could lead to protective orders.
"A lot of times you roughhouse. A lot of times you are trying to determine limits, what your limit is, what her limit is, when you have gone too far and when you haven’t gone too far," Jenkins said. "Now if you feel uncomfortable about something that happens, you go and get a court order" instead of ending relationships.
Jenkins voted against the bill.
Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, who also voted against the bill, said it goes down a "slippery slope" on rights for same-sex couples. She said that young women misunderstanding relationships — one thinking they are friends, and another thinking they were dating — could lead to retribution through seeking orders.
Dayton also questioned if protective orders could infringe on gun rights — a question raised by gun groups. Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said it would take "clear and convincing" evidence of threat of violence to infringe on gun rights.
Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said testimony in committee related numerous stories of dating partners having been attacked, and showed need for the change.
The bill had been held for several weeks because analysts estimated it would cost an extra $151,600 a year to implement in court and jail costs — but lawmakers decided Tuesday to include money to cover that in appropriations bills.
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