After years of debate, the Utah legislature passed a bill Tuesday to remedy a glaring omission in the state’s domestic violence laws and allow protective orders for those attacked or threatened by a significant other, even if they are not married or living together. But while the Senate endorsed the bill by a 24-4 margin, three opponents objected to the bill on stunning grounds.
The Dating Violence Prevention Act, H.B. 50, was introduced by Rep. Jennifer M. Seelig (D) and Sen. Curtis S. Bramble (R). If Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signs the bill, it will provides “for the issuance, modification, and enforcement of protective orders between individuals who are, or have been, in a dating relationship,” in cases where there is abuse or danger of abuse.
During the floor debate, Sen. Scott Jenkins (R) objected to the bill, noting that new couples often roughhouse and shouldn’t need legal protections:
JENKINS: You make a lot of mistakes in your first original encounter and dates with this new partner. A lot of times you rough house. A lot of times you’re trying to determine limits and where your limit is and where her limit is and when you’ve gone too far and when you haven’t gone too far. And when it doesn’t work you, you walk away. Now there’s a new element in here—now, if you feel uncomfortable about something that happens, you go and you get a court order. And it’s like “how did this get introduced? I did something that I thought was in fun and jest and the next think you know, I’ve got a court order against me!”
Noting that the Gun Owners of America, far-right fringe group, opposes the bill, Sen. Margaret Dayton (R) announced that she would oppose the bill because it was a “slippery slope” that might offer protections for same-sex couples.
DAYTON: As I read this dating relationship explanation, it talks about two parties in a social relationship, whether or not they’ve had interpersonal bonding. Okay? And it doesn’t include any kind of gender issues, so the way I read it, it could be two girls and one of them thinks they’re just good girl friends and the other one thinks it’s a romantic relationship and they’re dating. When the first one finds out that they’re not dating, she thought it was girlfriends, all of a sudden, one can get angry and all kinds of concerns can get generated because this is such an ill-defined dating relationship.
Perhaps most stunningly, Sen. Mark Madsen (R) objected to the fact that potential victims need only show one threat to receive protection, rather than a pattern of abuse. “What I’ve asked and requested and has not been offered is –- at least require a pattern, at least two instances of verbal threat or verbal abuse.” Madsen lamented “I guess we’ve abandoned the old saying that sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
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