A bill extending protection to victims of dating violence advanced in the Utah house today. HB 50, sponsored by Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig was met with heated opposition on the house floor.
Seelig informed members of the House that state law permits restraining orders for individuals who are married to or living with the perpetrator. And the state permits civil stalking orders for everyone else, but only after three instances of violence. Utah law also has protections for minors. That's a loophole Seelig intends to close.
“Yes this is needed, yes there is a gap, yes people are dying because this is not available," Seelig said.
But some lawmakers took issue with carving out new protections for a specific group.Republican Representative Douglas Sagers argued violence against anyone is already illegal.
“The bottom line for me is a simple protection," Sagers said. "Are people protected under the current law from violence. I would submit they are.”
Other lawmakers were concerned the bill would lead to further abuse of the protective order statute and it would strain Utah courts.
Dating violence protection bills have been rejected by the Utah legislature for nearly a decade. Representative Seelig's bill was approved 61 to 11. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.