The Utah Legislature has finally voted to allow anyone who is age 18 or over, is in a dating relationship and has been threatened or a victim of violence from a dating partner to obtain a protective order. The order lasts 180 days and violators are charged with a class B misdemeanor. The bill is designed to close the gap between protections in place for minors and married individuals.
HB50 - the Dating Violence Protection Act, sponsored by House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig-D, Salt Lake City will allow people who are not married or living with someone to be protected under the law. The Utah Senate passed the bill 24-4 on Tuesday, leaving only a signature from Governor Gary Herbert to make it law. It passed the Utah House on February 15 with a vote of 61-11.
Opposition to the legislation argued simple misunderstandings could be blown out of proportion. Senator Scott Jenkins-R, Plain City was worried people would “get a court order” instead of ending a relationship.
Senator Margaret Dayton-R, Orem expressed concerns about everything from giving rights to same-sex couples to an infringement on gun rights and retribution. Senate sponsor Curtis Bramble-R, Provo said it would require “clear and convincing” evidence that the threat of violence could infringe on someone’s gun rights.
Others voiced concern about government interference in private lives and the cost to the courts. The legislature approved funding to cover the expected $151,600 increase in court and jail costs.
Testimony during hearings about the bill indicated numerous incidents of dating violence leaving victims hospitalized and traumatized with no legal recourse because the dating partners had not lived together.
Utah has been one of eight states that did not offer protection in dating relationships, according to Representative Seelig. Similar legislation has been introduced as early as 2006.
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Source: Utah Legislature, Salt Lake Tribune, divorceutah.com, KUER