In last week’s column I stated that I was serving on a special interim summer study focusing on a comprehensive review of South Dakota’s domestic abuse statutes. In addition I discussed the history and general definition of domestic abuse in our state. And, that for the past two years the South Dakota Senate and House of Representatives has been deadlocked in defining who should be covered by domestic abuse protections through our state laws.
In South Dakota, domestic abuse statutes are covered in South Dakota Codified Law Chapter 25-10-1 through 25-10-43 and in SDCL Chapter 22-19A that addresses stalking. Chapter 25-10-1 (1) defines “domestic abuse” as physical harm, bodily injury, or attempts to cause physical harm or bodily injury between family or household members. Further, any violation of SDCL 25-10-13-a violation of a protection order or SDCL 22-19-A (stalking) or any crime of violence defined in Chapter 22-1-2 (9) that defines a “crime of violence” constitutes domestic abuse if the underlying criminal act is committed between family or household members.
Family or household members are defined in SDCL 25-10-1 (2) as spouses, former spouses, or persons related by consanguinity (or related by blood), adoption, or law, persons living in the same household, persons who have lived together, or persons who have had a child together. Senate Bill 147 in the 2013 Session attempted to define more specifically the family or household members covered by domestic abuse protection orders (SDCL 25-10-13).
The Senate passed SB 147 with a 33-2 vote. It included a new reference to “dating relationship” and the definition as “any social relationship between the persons of a romantic or sexual nature”. However, when the bill reached the House Judiciary Committee (of which I am a member) the wording referring to a “dating relationship” were removed and replaced with persons “living in the same household”. And, when SB 147 reached the House Floor, four words-“of the opposite sex”- were inserted as an amendment regarding the persons living in the same household. The House passed its version 52-18.
When the words “of the opposite sex” were inserted into the House version of SB 147, the bill had a distinctly different meaning. Members of the Senate refused to agree with the House version of the bill. A conference committee of three senators and three representatives met and concluded they could not agree. Therefore, just as in the 2012 Session there was the same deadlock between the Senate and the House regarding the status of same-sex relationships in South Dakota.
Our special interim summer study is geared to provide a broad and deep look at the facts regarding domestic abuse in our state. Now whether or not facts can bridge the same-sex division of personal values, especially by members of the House, remains to be seen.
At our first meeting on June 17th, committee members agreed to split up and hold special field hearings later this summer. In the plans are hearings to be scheduled in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Rapid City and the Yankton-Vermillion area to consider testimony from law enforcement, shelter personnel and persons with direct experience in situations involving domestic abuse. These field hearings will be in late August. Committee members will set the dates at our next full committee meeting on August 1st in Pierre. Results from the field hearings are to be presented at the September 4th full committee meeting. Please feel free to contact me if you have information regarding domestic abuse issues or you would like to testify at a special field hearing. I can be contacted at (605) 352-9862 or .