The Court of Appeals of North Carolina ruled Thursday that people who are or have been in a dating relationship with a same-sex partner are equally protected against domestic violence as persons in opposite-sex relationships placed in a similar situation. North Carolina was the only US state where such protection had been unavailable.
The case arose when the plaintiff, a woman, filed for issuance of a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) pursuant to Chapter 50B of the North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) against another woman with whom she had been in a dating relationship. The trial court rejected the complaint, stating that under Chapter 50B of the NCGS, only persons in opposite-sex dating relationships could claim protections against domestic violence. The decision of the trial court was appealed citing violations under the Constitution of North Carolina as well as the Fourteenth Amendment, an appeal which resulted in the court’s Thursday decision.
The court ruled that Chapter 50B of NCGS was violative of the due process clause, the plaintiff’s fundamental rights to personal safety and liberty, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court observed that the classification made under NCGS singled out people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, served no government interest and was violative of the objective with which the statute was enacted, failing even the lowest level of scrutiny test.
While relying on the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, the court also observed that discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity was not possible without discriminating against the person based on their “sex.” Accordingly, it held that Chapter 50B of NCGS was a specific violation of the Equal Protection Clause.