Outdated South Carolina 'man and woman' law is letting some domestic violence offenders off the hook

South Carolina law still defines a couple as, for the purpose of domestic violence prosecutions, consisting of a man and a woman … and on that basis, magistrate judges in one county are throwing out domestic violence cases involving same-sex couples. The judges are doing this even though:

Prosecutors say South Carolina’s law, which defines a couple for domestic violence charges as only a “man and a woman,” was ruled unconstitutional by the S.C. Supreme Court in 2017. That court ruling was upheld in an opinion by the state attorney general.

The attorney general issued an opinion earlier this year, saying prosecutors could go forward with criminal prosecution of same sex domestic violence cases.

The official rationale for giving people a free pass on domestic violence because they’re in a same-sex relationship is that:

In one of Tuesday’s hearings, Assistant York County Public defender Jeff Zuschke successfully argued to York County Magistrate Michael Scurlock that the Supreme Court ruling on the S.C. law does not apply to criminal cases. The Supreme Court ruling was specific to a protection order for Family Court, Zuschke argued. And state law defines for domestic violence criminal cases that it requires a “man and a woman,” Zuschke argued.

This is an issue urgently in need of clarification from above, because at this point the position is basically that if you’re LGBTQ, you’re fair game for partner abuse and the law won’t help you. Prosecutors say they will continue to treat these cases like any others.

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