Letters

No Misunderstanding on This One

Editor,

Equality Utah Inc. staffer Will Carlson admitted that state bill HB0247 "Domestic Violence and Dating Violence Amendments" would "make it easier for victims of violence to file protective orders against their abusers" [QSaltLake, "A Session of Misunderstanding," March 13], but failed to distinguish that the bill would also have made it easier for a person who chose to abuse its provisions by accusing another person based on exaggerated circumstances — or none at all — and without notice or a public hearing.

 

Existing laws already: 1) prohibit violence or a threat of violence, 2) punish such violence or threat, and 3) offer a "protective order" against such violence or threat between two or more person who are "cohabitants" including domestic partners, and a "restraining order" against such violence or threat between two or more persons including dating partners.

The differences are that: 1) a protective order is offered without notice or a public hearing for up to 20 days (and up to 150 days thereafter) when both persons are cohabitants where their consequent proximity of residence and urgency of threat require immediate separation, and 2) a restraining order is offered with notice and a public hearing whether both persons are cohabitants where their consequent proximity of residence and urgency of threat require immediate separation, or not.

The ONLY thing the bill would have done differently is to offer a protective order without notice or a public hearing for up to 20 days (and up to two years thereafter) when both persons are dating partners, but aren't cohabitants where their consequent proximity of residence and urgency of threat require immediate separation. So, the ability of a person to have such an order issued against another person deserves the extra protection of a preliminary hearing, but the bill would have provided only ordinary scrutiny.

Carlson wrote that the bill was misunderstood by those who opposed it and was "labeled by opponents as an attack on the right to bear arms," but worried about "the consequences of keeping guns in the hands of those who are physically abusive."

In fact, a person who was just once a dating partner of another person, and merely believed that the other person was a threat, could have requested a two-year protective order against the other person during which time the other person would have been legally restricted from certain rights and liberties including, under federal laws which would be immediately triggered by such an order, the U.S. Constitution Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. A person's belief of such a threat doesn't require violence, the use of a weapon or a statement to do so. But, the result is the same and, once triggered, is difficult and expensive to reverse.

Carlson failed also to admit that the bill would have added one more law to the Utah Code which criminalized consensual sodomy more than four years after it was determined to be constitutionally protected by the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Far from being a meaningless mistake, state Rep. David Litvack simply repeated a list of existing criminal laws and created a new one where consensual sodomy would mean "dating violence" and trigger the bill's provision. Our legislative opponents no longer reference this archaic law, why does one of our friends after three attempts in as many years?

So, the bill would have done what our laws already do, but would also have opened an area of law for abuse where none exists. And, it would have jeopardized needlessly the rights and liberties of many Utah citizens and visitors.

David Nelson
Salt Lake City

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