Raleigh, N.C. — A national domestic violence expert says a proposal to require a two-year waiting period for a divorce in North Carolina would put women in even more danger of abuse.
Kim Gandy leads the National Network to End Domestic Violence. She spoke at a news conference for the left-leaning group NC Women United, which held its biannual advocacy day Tuesday.
Gandy singled out Senate Bill 518, the "Healthy Marriages Act," filed by Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba.
The bill would require a two-year waiting period for a divorce, with required counseling on conflict resolution and communication skills. Additional counseling would be required if there are children involved in the relationship.
The proposal makes no exception for cases of domestic violence or abuse.
"We already know that the most dangerous time for a battered woman is after she takes steps to leave the relationship. That's when she's most likely to be injured or killed," Gandy said.
"To say we're going to expand that time, we're going to force you to remain in a legal relationship before you can get a divorce for two years, without any exception, even for cases of violence, it shocks the conscience," she said. "It shocks my conscience, and I trust it shocks your conscience and that you will let your legislators know how you feel."
About 100 women turned out for the group's advocacy day. Their agenda also opposes voting restrictions, supports reproductive rights and weighs in on a variety of economic issues that disproportionately affect women, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.
NC Women United President Jina Dhillon described the group as "angry and determined."
"Already, the developments of the 2013 legislative session indicate that many lawmakers have no problem reversing decades of progress," Dhillon said at the news conference.
Rep, Deborah Ross, D-Wake, touted her House Bill 603, which was filed Tuesday. The "Equal Pay Act" would prohibit employers from paying female employees less than male employees for the same work.
Ross said the legislation is modeled on Arizona's equal pay act – "not your world's most liberal state," she joked – and added that Tennessee and Virginia have even more protections in their laws than Arizona.
More than 40 states have equal pay provisions in their statutes, she said.