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Are Domestic Violence Laws Gender Neutral?

Written by: iceman

Domestic Violence Cases are Made More Complicated with Same-Sex Partners

Although domestic violence occurs in LGBTQ+ relationships at about the same rate as heterosexual homosexual relationships, these cases are often more difficult to prove. In addition to potential court biases against domestic violence in same-sex relationships, an LGBTQ+ domestic violence victim must face the stigma and stereotype of mutual abuse.

In addition, same-sex abusers often use the court system in their victimization of their partner by claiming domestic violence when in fact they themselves are the abuser. This further muddies the waters in LGTBQ+ domestic violence cases. If you have been accused of same-sex domestic violence, contact our offices for more information or keep reading to learn more about California’s domestic violence laws.

Are Laws About Domestic Violence Gender-Neutral?

Although only one state has domestic violence laws that specifically mention same-sex couples, all states now allow same-sex domestic violence victims protections under the law. North Carolina was the last state to acknowledge same-sex domestic violence.

In California, the domestic violence law in Section 273.5 of the Penal Code uses gender-neutral language, allowing same-sex partners the same protections as heterosexual couples. However, there are some aspects of the law that can be construed as being only relevant to heterosexual couples.

Is There Language in the California Domestic Violence Law Applicable to One Gender?

The domestic violence law in California does not favor one gender over the other, nor does it preclude same-sex victims from getting protections under the law. However, there is one part of the law that could be read to apply to only heterosexual couples.

This is found in Section 273.5(b)(4), which states that the mother or father of the offender’s child can be a victim of domestic violence. Furthermore, Section 273.5(e) states that for the purposes of this law, a person shall be considered the father or mother of another person’s child only if the father is presumed to be the natural father of the child. This could mean that the mother or father of an adopted child may not be offered protection under the law.

How Does the California Domestic Violence Law Apply to Same-Sex Couples? 

According to California law, domestic violence victims can be:

  • The offender’s spouse or former spouse
  • The offender’s past or present cohabitant
  • The offender’s fiance, fiancee, or past dating relationship
  • The mother or father of the offender’s child

Furthermore, the law states that marriage or holding oneself out to be one’s spouse is not a requirement for cohabitation to exist. In all but the last of these, same-sex couples enjoy the same protections as heterosexual domestic violence victims.

Other California laws require judges to be unbiased against LGBTQ+ victims in domestic violence proceedings. Rule 2.3 precludes judges from making determinations or biases based on sexual orientation. 

How Do the Courts Respond to LGBTQ+ Domestic Violence in California?

The California courts publicly published a PowerPoint presentation for other judges and court officials regarding same-sex domestic violence. In particular, one judge states that when the victim presents poorly, it could be a sign that the “victim” is actually the abuser. The judge from Washington relates a tale about how the respondent in a domestic violence case was the real victim and cried when the judge believed him.

The presentation also points out the myth of mutual abuse, and how judges should cut through the mud to determine who the true victim is, if any. The presentation points out that domestic violence is ultimately about control, and this standard should be used when determining domestic violence in same-sex cases.

Have You Been Accused of Domestic Violence in California?

If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence in California, you need to act quickly to protect yourself and your rights. You have the right to an attorney, and you should exercise that right. Since California has opened up their domestic violence definitions to include financial abuse punishable with restitution, it has become even more important for you to have an attorney. 
Ridley Defense has years of experience representing those accused of domestic violence in same-sex or other LGBTQ+ relationships. Contact us today at (805) 208-1866 for more information or to schedule your consultation.

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