Domestic violence can be a problem in any relationship, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. When discussing intimate partner violence, we typically picture a large man beating up a smaller woman. A 2014 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy reported that 25% to 75% of LGBTQ+ couples experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. But same-sex couples also face domestic violence and tend to be less likely to report it to the police. However, with the recognition of same sex marriage, LGTBQ+ couples now share the same protections that heterosexual couples do.
What Qualifies as Family Violence in Texas?
Same sex couples can face arrest for family violence in Texas. The typical charges for domestic violence include:
- Domestic assault,
- Aggravated domestic assault, and
- Continuous violence against a family.
But family violence in Texas includes more than just assault. In Texas, the family code defines family violence as:
(1) an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself;
(2) abuse […] by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or
(3) dating violence […].
Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004 (2017). Under this definition “family” includes spouses and former spouses and those who are parents of the same child, regardless of marriage or gender. “Household” also includes those who live together or who once lived together regardless of how they are related or their gender.
What Qualifies as Dating Violence in Texas?
Same sex couples can also be subject to “dating violence,” as it's defined under Texas law. The statute defines dating violence as:
(a) [A]n act, other than a defensive measure to protect oneself, by an actor that:
(1) is committed against a victim or applicant for a protective order:
(A) with whom the actor has or has had a dating relationship; or
(B) because of the victim's or applicant's marriage to or dating relationship with an individual with whom the actor is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage; and
(2) is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the victim or applicant in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.
The code also defines a “dating relationship” as “a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” The court decides this while considering the following:
(1) “the length of the relationship;
(2) the nature of the relationship; and
(3) the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.”
Tex. Fam. Code § 71.0021(2015).Casual relationships, acquaintances, or “ordinary fraternization” in a business or social context doesn't qualify as a “dating relationship” under Texas law. Moreover, under the statutes, even threats to cause physical harm that put someone in fear of imminent harm can qualify as family or dating violence.
Who Can Get a Restraining Order in Texas?
In Texas, a court will issue a protective order if it finds that family violence occurred and is likely to continue, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the couple. The court will then issue a protective order against the person found to have committed family violence. The court may issue a protective order against both parties to:
- Prevent them both from transferring property,
- Removing a child from the custody of the person named in the order,
- Removing a pet or service animal from the person named in the order,
- Providing access to a child,
- Requiring them to continue to pay support, or
- Awarding a party the use or possession of community-owned, jointly owned, or leased property.
Tex. Fam. Code § 85.001 (2011).
A judge can issue a protective order that remains in place for more than two years if the court finds that the subject of the protective order:
(1) committed an act constituting a felony offense involving family violence against the applicant or a member of the applicant's family or household, regardless of whether the person has been charged with or convicted of the offense;
(2) caused serious bodily injury to the applicant or a member of the applicant's family or household; or
(3) was the subject of two or more previous protective orders rendered:
(A) to protect the person on whose behalf the current protective order is sought; and
(B) after a finding by the court that the subject of the protective order:
(i) has committed family violence; and
(ii) is likely to commit family violence in the future.
Tex. Family Code § 85.025(a-1) (2021). As part of a same sex couple, you can face a restraining order against you for family or dating violence in Texas.
You Need a Board Certified Expert in Texas Criminal Defense Law
If you're facing domestic violence charges in a same sex relationship, the consequences of a conviction can be serious. You need legal guidance as soon as possible. Attorney Doug Murphy is an expert in criminal defense law, and a board-certified expert in both Criminal Defense and DWI Defense, one of only two Texas attorneys with this designation in these two specialty areas of the law. Best Lawyers in America also recently named Doug a 2023 “Lawyer of the Year” for DWI defense in Houston, a recognition voted on by Doug's fellow Houston attorneys.
Doug Murphy and his skilled legal team have guided many people through domestic violence charges, ensuring the best possible outcome in their cases. Find out how they can help you. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. at 713-229-8333, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.
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