State Legislators, Domestic Violence Groups Call to Close Deadly Loophole by Passing Melanie’s Law

Legislation would expand orders of protection in domestic violence cases

(Brooklyn, NY) – Led by Assemblymember Brian A. Cunningham (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Anil Beephan, Jr. (R,C-East Fishkill) in the Assembly and New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey (D- 41st Senate District), a bipartisan group of elected officials, joined service providers for survivors of domestic violence to support the passage of Melanie’s Law (S.6288/A.6026). This bill would close a loophole related to orders of protection, allowing courts to extend such orders to all of the named victim’s family and household members.

The legislation is named after Melanie Chianese, a 29-year-old mother and health coach, who was brutally murdered in 2022 by her mother’s ex-boyfriend following a pattern of stalking and harassment. While a judge granted an order of protection to Melanie’s mother Cheryl and Melanie’s son, Melanie’s request was denied because she was not a minor. 

The press conference also addressed wider issues of domestic violence in New York during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with host organization Neighbors in Action providing resources for survivors, families, and community members. 

Melanie’s Law is the result of a bipartisan partnership between Beephan, who was Melanie’s representative in the New York State Assembly, and Cunningham, who introduced the bill as a member of the Assembly majority conference. The bill’s supporters emphasize the importance of collaboration across party lines to implement life-saving policy changes.

“Domestic violence touches people of all identities and backgrounds, impacting not only direct targets but their loved ones as well,” said Assembly Member Brian A. Cunningham (D-Brooklyn). “The tragic death of Melanie Chianese is a stark reminder that we cannot rest until the scourge of domestic violence is eliminated. I am grateful to have Assemblyman Beephan as a partner in this effort, proving that we can still work across the aisle to pass common-sense legislation that will save lives. I also want to thank Cheryl Chianese, Melanie’s mom, for her tireless advocacy in the face of such tragedy.”

Assemblyman Anil Beephan, Jr. (R-East Fishkill) added, “My heart goes out to those impacted by domestic violence. Raising awareness about domestic violence has been at the forefront of my focus during my first year in the New York State Assembly. Through working with Assemblyman Cunningham on Melanie’s Law, I remain committed to addressing existing loopholes that only exacerbate the danger faced by those impacted by domestic violence. I call on the New York State Assembly to pass Melanie’s law when we return to Albany and thank the Senate for their unanimous support of the bill.”

Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Melanie’s Law, championed by her courageous mother Cheryl and developed in her memory, will provide a critically needed expansion to orders of protection to shield more family and household members from dangerous individuals. This common-sense legislation will close a glaring loophole in law, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to get it passed this session so we can better protect victims of domestic violence and abuse.”

"I applaud Assemblyman Cunningham's strong efforts to pass Melanie's Law in his chamber and protect more victims of domestic violence,” said Senator Rob Rolison (R-Poughkeepsie). “After the legislation cleared the Senate earlier this year, I said I would continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this critical measure to Governor Hochul's desk. Together, we can enhance the safety and well-being of our residents by permanently fixing a dangerous legal loophole."

"Domestic Violence offenders want their victims to endure a lifetime of pain and suffering. Melanie Chianese lost her life at the hands of my offender because of WHO she was, my daughter. Melanie's Law NEEDS to be passed so that everyone in the household is protected regardless of age. This will close a dangerous loophole so this horrific tragedy, which shook our community, NEVER happens again," said Cheryl Chianese-Cavalli.

"As the Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Women's Issues, I'm encouraged by the steps the Legislature has taken to reinforce domestic violence laws and provide resources for organizations devoted to victim support,” said Assemblymember Karen McMahon (D-Amherst). Unfortunately, though, loopholes remain that inhibit protections for victims of domestic violence, or those under threat of violence. Melanie's Law would close a major loophole, relieving judges of the obligation to consider age when granting an order of protection. Sadly, this crime knows no bounds when it comes to age, therefore, our ability to protect victims or potential victims shouldn't either. I join my colleagues in calling for the passage of this bipartisan legislation."

Assembly Member William Conrad (R-Tonawanda) said, “This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am proud to be joining colleagues from both sides of the aisle in co-sponsoring A.6026, to enact Melanie’s Law. The brutal murder of Ms. Chianese brought to light a troubling legal loophole that we as legislators seek to close, to ensure her tragic death was not in vain, but that it leads to expanded protections available under the law to the victims of a domestic abuser. I commend the sponsors of this bill for their leadership in our effort to honor Ms. Chianese’s memory and safeguard New York families going forward.”

"This is the kind of meaningful work that legislators pride themselves on doing - closing loopholes that left residents vulnerable in the past,” said Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R,C-Deerpark). Melanie's Law will ensure that all family members can be protected by orders of protection, no matter the age of the person in the family. I'm proud to co-sponsor this legislation, I'm proud of my Hudson Valley colleague Assemblyman Beephan for championing this bill, and I'm grateful for the bipartisan support led by Assemblyman Cunningham to turn this bill into law, and I look forward to voting 'Yes' when it hopefully comes to the Assembly floor next year."

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh) said, “Nearly 90,000 victims of domestic violence were reported statewide in 2022, so much work remains to be done. This commonsense law enabling judges to extend an order of protection to family members of domestic violence victims is needed today.”

Assembly Member Manny De Los Santos (D-Manhattan) added, “I commend Assembly Member Cunningham for sponsoring Melanie’s Law and all my colleagues championing the bill. We need to empower individuals and families to protect themselves from domestic violence, and by allowing judges to grant protective orders for immediate family members of survivors regardless of their age, this bill does exactly that.”

“Melanie Chianese’s murder was a tragedy that not only devastated her family; it exposed the deficiency in our courts’ ability to impose restraining orders in domestic violence cases. Melanie’s Law will allow orders of protection to extend to all members of a victim’s household — whether or not they are related, and regardless of age. It is a necessary correction to our criminal and family court laws, and will protect innocent New Yorkers,” said Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky (D-Tarrytown). 

“The passage of Melanie’s Law would give family members of victims of domestic violence the protection they deserve, regardless of age,” said Assemblyman Scott Bendett (R,C-Sand Lake). “The murder of Melanie Chianese was a terrible tragedy that could have been prevented had the order of protection requested by her mother been granted. As a father, I would do anything to protect my children if they were in a dangerous situation, whether they were older than 18 or not. This legislation needs to be passed so other New York families in our communities do not have to suffer the impacts of domestic violence in silence—everyone is entitled to feel safe, and this legislation will allow voices to be heard and justice to be served.” 

“I fully support the efforts of Assemblymember Brian Cunningham, Assemblymember Anil Beephan, Sen. Michelle Hinchey, Sen. Rob Rolison and other state and local lawmakers in supporting the passage of Melanie’s Law. This bipartisan legislation is warranted and long overdue. The fact that Cheryl Chianese’s request for an order of protection for her daughter was denied simply due to Melanie’s age is ridiculous. It’s time we take the necessary steps to expand judicial authority in cases like this so judges have the ability to grant orders of protection as needed to family members of victims of domestic violence, regardless of age. Passing this legislation is a small step in the right direction to not only improve our judicial system but to also bring justice to Melanie’s family,” said Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R,C-Mohawk Valley and the Adirondacks).

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Utica, Rome) added, “It is imperative that we pass Melanie’s Law (S.6288/A.6026), in an effort to close a deadly loophole within our justice system. Being able to extend order of protections to all members of a victim’s family, regardless of age, is a necessary safeguard that must be put into place to ensure the wellbeing of all New Yorkers. This is a commonsense bill that must be passed this session. My deepest condolences go to the Chianese family, and we will work to make sure a tragedy such as this one never happens again” 

“New York State must do more to protect against domestic violence. By passing Melanie’s Law, we will close a dangerous loophole in our legal system and help ensure we protect ALL victims of domestic violence, regardless of age. Through Melanie’s Law we will strengthen and reaffirm our commitment to protect victims from the horrors of domestic violence,” said Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti (D-Port Washington).

“During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we remember and honor the countless lives lost each year, said Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D-Ithaca). "We must unite to empower survivors, educate our communities, and pledge to never let silence be the voice of those suffering. “Melanie’s Law” will strengthen the protection of New Yorkers across the state from domestic violence. Loopholes should not be the reason victims, or their families live in fear, knowing they do not have the protection they need. We will remember Melanie, the contributions she made to our society and how her story is saving the lives of many to come.”

"Throughout my career as a civil rights lawyer, I saw the power of our legal system to help women restore control over their lives. Melanie’s Law adds a critical tool to our legal system to protect survivors’ families: it closes the loophole that precludes orders of protection for a survivor’s adult children, recognizing that the danger posed by their parent’s abusive partner does not end when they turn 18. Now a judge will be able to extend an order of protection to anyone in a survivor’s immediate family, regardless of age. I am proud to join my colleagues Assemblymembers Brian Cunningham and Anil Beephan in supporting this law remedying such a glaring injustice in our criminal justice system," added Assemblywoman Jennifer Rajkumar (D-Queens).

Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg (D-Ossining) said, "As a mother of two, I can confidently say that my adult sons are no less dear to me now than they were when they were children. In an abusive situation, family members of all ages can be vulnerable because abusers are not above hurting cherished family members as a means of hurting their former partners, as we saw in the case of Melanie Chianese. This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let's pass Melanie's Law and do everything we can to prevent another tragedy like this one."