Big news for same-sex couples and families in New York: you’ll soon have equal access to the state’s vital protections against domestic violence. The New York State Legislature has recently passed a bill that allows any domestic partners – including same-sex couples – access to the protections granted by Family Court. These include obtaining civil orders of protection, removing an abuser from the home, the use of social services to address a situation, and other protections that can be granted without initiating criminal proceedings.
Family Courts had previously left out same-sex couples, unmarried committed couples without children, and those in dating relationships – either gay or straight. Gay and lesbian couples had no access to Family Courts because they didn’t have the ability to get married. The Family Court access bill (S.8665 /A.11701), which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Paterson, opens up Family Court to provide equal access to all for protection from domestic violence.
The Legislature’s move to pass this bill is a significant victory for the LGBT community. Until now, New York has been one of the last states in the nation to protect unmarried couples against domestic violence. This long-overdue law has been on the Pride Agenda’s public policy agenda for years, and advocates throughout the state have been pushing for its protections for two decades. Even though the Family Court access bill has been passed by the Assembly by wide, bipartisan votes for many years, this marks the first time that it has ever reached a floor vote in the Senate. Finally, all kinds of New York families – gay, straight, married, unmarried – will receive equal protection from domestic violence.