Herald-Leader Editorial

Allow daters to get protective orders

Senate panel finally will hear the bill

February 28, 2013 

More than a few Kentucky parents have been dismayed to learn their single daughter is barred from seeking a protective order against an ex-boyfriend or wannabe-boyfriend who is stalking or threatening her.

This gap in Kentucky law puts us in extremely narrow company. South Carolina is the only other state that still excludes people in dating relationships from obtaining civil protective orders.

Kentucky may finally end this dreadful distinction. There are encouraging signs that Senate Republicans are ready to remove the roadblocks they have put up in the past.

Kudos to the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, for scheduling a hearing today for House Bill 9, which would extend protective orders to Kentuckians who have been in dating relationships.

HB 9 cleared the 100-member House last week with broad bipartisan support. There were only five no votes, including that of Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington.

Kentucky law now extends protective orders only to those who have lived together, been married or share a child, including members of same-sex couples.

Excluded is a particularly vulnerable group, teens and young adults who have yet to marry, as well as people who choose not to co-habitate outside marriage for moral reasons or out of consideration for children from an earlier relationship.

These Kentuckians deserve the full protection of the law and the same protections available in other states.

Civil protective orders have proved to be an effective tool for domestic violence victims to get on with their lives with some sense of security. The system saves taxpayers money on incarcerations, medical treatment and social services.

The system also protects the accused. HB 9 would provide younger offenders with a wake-up call that could prevent them from falling deeper into violence.

If they comply with the order, which usually requires them to stay away from the victim, they won't have a criminal record.

The Senate's new leadership has a political incentive to remove the roadblocks to HB 9. A gender gap hurt Republicans in last year's elections as women viewed Democrats as more in tune with their priorities.

But the best reason to support HB 9 is the hometown, pro-family politics of common sense and compassion. Domestic violence knows no party lines. It wreaks untold harm and huge costs on Kentuckians. Anything that interrupts this cycle of violence is worthy of bipartisan support.

This is at least the third time the House has approved extending domestic violence protections to dating couples.

It's time the Senate did the same.

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