Know Your Rights

If you are an LGBTQ person in an unhealthy relationship and are looking for legal protections, you have rights!

Photo of women in disagreementThe following is a list of basic rights for people in D.C. and is not legal advice. Contact the LGBTQ-friendly legal services organizations listed here for more information on your rights.

Protection from Abuse in Civil Court

  • Civil Protection Orders (CPOs) are civil (not criminal) orders that can be requested by victims (called Petitioners) and that can order that abusers (called Respondents) leave the Petitioner alone, leave shared homes/apartments, stay away from the Petitioner, enroll in classes for anger management, or take anger management or drug/alcohol abuse classes.
  • You can file for a CPO if someone you have a specific type of relationship with has committed a crime against you.  The people you can file against include:
    • Someone with whom you have dated or have had a romantic or sexual relationship;
    • A roommate;
    • Someone you are related to by blood or legally (parents, children, siblings, spouses, domestic partners, etc.);
    • Someone who you share a “common partner” with (for example, your ex boyfriend’s current boyfriend);
    • Someone who has stalked you or sexually assaulted you. CPOs can be entered when a specific offense occurs. The most common crimes that count are: assault, threats, property damage, sexual assault, stalking, injury to pets, etc.
  • You do not have to file criminal charges to get a CPO!
  • Of a Respondent violates a CPO, s/he may face sanctions including 180 days in jail or a $1000 fine.
  • If you do not want to be “out” about your relationship, it may still be possible for you to get a CPO.

Criminal Charges

Remember: NONE of this is legal advice.

Please contact one of the attorneys in our legal resources section for advice about your specific situation.

  • If someone has committed a crime against you, you can call 911 or file a police report. Officers may respond to the scene and may arrest the person who has abused you.
  • After you have filed a police report, the decision about whether or not to “press charges” is not yours – it is the government’s case (U.S. vs. Abuser).  You can ask the government to press charges or drop the case, but there is no guarantee that they will.

Housing and Employment Rights

  • DC has some of the best employment and housing protections for LGBTQ individuals in the country.
  • You cannot be evicted or fired because you are LGBTQ.
  • You can get out of your lease if you are a victim of abuse and have the appropriate documentation.
  • You may be eligible for paid time off of work to go to court, the doctor, or meet with your attorney.

Rights Regarding Children

  • If you are the legal parent of a child, that child cannot be taken away from you just because you are LGBTQ.
  • If your abuser has acted as the parent of your child even though he/she isn’t biologically related to your child, you may be able to get child support.
  • If you are not the legal parent of a child, but have a relationship with the child, you may be able to argue for legal rights of visitation or custody

Immigration Rights

  • If you are the victim of a crime and are willing to cooperate with the police and prosecution, you may be eligible for a U-Visa.