Dating violence protection bill sparks traditional marriage debate

Published: Friday, Feb. 15 2013 5:30 p.m. MST

Sandy Police Chief Stephen Chapman and Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake, speak following a press conference about ending domestic and sexual violence Monday, Feb. 4, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill labeled the Dating Violence Protection Act passed the House on Friday but not before a lengthy debate over whether it should be amended to include a recognition of traditional marriage.

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said he wanted to amend HB50, sponsored by House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, to change the bill from being what he called a "romance version of protective orders" by singling out daters.

But Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the only purpose of inserting recognition of "policies and standards of conduct regarding marriage" into the bill was to weaken protections for same-sex dating couples.

Christensen's amendment was defeated on a voice vote. The bill was approved 61-11 and now goes to the Senate.

Seelig said the bill extended needed protections to people who are dating rather than married or cohabiting.

"This bill does not create a protected class," she said. "It does not expand any homosexual rights."

Later, she told reporters the sexuality of someone seeking an order shouldn't be an issue.

"We don't ask sexual preference in a protective order," Seelig said. "We think it's more important to protect people from acts of violence and sexual violence than it is to judge them."

The bill would allow dating couples to seek the same protective order available to cohabiting couples except for the duration of the order. Seelig said dating couples would have a 180-day "cooling-off" period, while orders can be indefinite for cohabiting couples.

During the House floor debate, Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, described how her daughter was stalked by a man who had convinced himself he was her boyfriend after hearing her speak at a church event.

Poulson said that was the real purpose of the bill, to offer redress for people like her daughter. She urged lawmakers to stay focused on the victims and "get back to the meat of this bill."

Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, said during the debate that he is a strong supporter of the traditional definition of marriage but understands that everyone needs protection.

"The thrust of this bill is to protect anyone who's in danger of being beat up," McIff said.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com, Twitter: dnewspolitics

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