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In November, Ohioians passed a Constitutional Amendment denying legal status to unmarried couples. The previous Ohio statute already had defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The new amendment added this language, which forbids any state or local law that would:
create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design...of marriage."

Batterers are using this as a defense against domestic violence laws.

In at least two cases last week, the Cuyahoga County public defender's office has asked a judge to dismiss domestic violence charges against unmarried defendants, arguing that the charges violate the amendment by affording marriagelike legal status to unmarried victims who live with the people accused of attacking them.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence...fear defense attorneys across the state will copy the tactic used in Cuyahoga County..."we're very worried that some victims will not be granted the protection they need because they're not married. That could jeopardize people's lives."

" The thing is, you can only get a domestic violence charge now if you are a wife-beater, not a girlfriend beater..."

Some legal scholars argue that if a judge were to agree with the public defender's ruling, a court could declare the amendment in violation of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.

Of course, it has always been about equal protection, but I am not so optimistic that I think some battered or murdered women will help us see the error of this law. Back when it was being discussed, AARP said that it would impact older, unmarried couples in terms of pensions and survivor's rights, no suits yet on this, but I wonder how long it will take the 65% of the people who voted for this to realize that it affects them or someone they know.

This is courtesy of the
Dispatch

Originally posted to jiffykeen on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:21 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Didn't see that one coming... (none)
    Good grief.
    •  Just another example (none)
      of how woven through the fabric of daily life the state benefits/protections of marriage actually are.

      People just don't like to think things through.  I'm having this same discussion with my 8 year old who doesn't want to see what he actions at point x can lead to at point y.  The country is about on par with an 8 year old.

      In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

      by a gilas girl on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 07:14:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  When the amendment came up in Michigan.... (none)
        ...I think I only looked at the financial aspects because that's what the media tended to focus on. (yes, I know, bad me!)

        A quick check of Michigan domestic violence laws show that "any dating relationship" is covered, so I think we will be OK here. (Maybe. We shall see.)

         

  •  weird (none)
    It seems odd that there's separate laws on domestic violence in the first place.  If I assault someone, why should it matter if it's my wife or my platonic-friend college roommate?
    •  Why would it seem odd (none)
      Special laws had to be passed because for far, far too long the platonic roommate would have been able to prosecute a roommate for assault, but a wife would not have been able to prosecute for getting the hell beat out of her.  It took long hard work to get people to realize that battering your wife was not acceptable behavior.

      Yes, I'm a proud Massachusetts Liberal, and fuck you for saying that's a bad thing.

      by MAJeff on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:38:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  why not work on that then? (none)
        Isn't the problem there exactly that assault against wives wasn't being treated the same way as assault against anyone else?  Perhaps a new law is a useful temporary solution, but the real solution IMO would be uniform application of a neutrally-written assault law.
        •  There's also a strong body of theory (4.00)
          behind domestic violence work.  Now, in some states a roommate would be included under domestic violence statutes.  What domestic violence folks recognize is that the violence itself is a tool used as a means of controlling a person.  The issue of violence in domestic relationships is different than that of, say, a bar fight or a robbery.  It's almost never a one-time thing; it's generally part of a pattern.

          Yes, I'm a proud Massachusetts Liberal, and fuck you for saying that's a bad thing.

          by MAJeff on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:46:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Domestic Violence laws (none)
          Historically, police have been very reluctant to step in on DV,(before there was specific legislation), they would ask the man to take a walk, cool off. Of course, the woman would get the shit kicked out of her as soon as the police left. DV laws make it possible for the police to arrest the offender if there is probable cause, the burden is off of the woman to be the one to "file charges."

          DV laws in Ohio also offer protection because the second offense can be prosecuted as a felony. However, in our jurisdiction, almost never is DV prosecuted, it usually gets pled down to disturbing the peace or something like this.

          •  A plea (none)
            seems to be the rule almost everywhere.  In locations with active D.V. programs/shelters, the prosecutors will often have a relationship with that program.  Many of them are starting to run programs for batterers, and participation in these is becoming part of the plea agreements.

            I used to work for such a program in Minnesota.

            Yes, I'm a proud Massachusetts Liberal, and fuck you for saying that's a bad thing.

            by MAJeff on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:55:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not (none)
              the batterers program...didn't mean to say I worked with that.  I know I could never do that work.  I did work for a battered women's program, though.

              Yes, I'm a proud Massachusetts Liberal, and fuck you for saying that's a bad thing.

              by MAJeff on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:56:58 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Family Violence (none)
      I'm not sure about Ohio, but in Jawja we separate violent crimes as domestic / family violence, which includes girlfriends, or stranger violence.  The former has higher mandatory minimums than the stranger violence.

      The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions.

      by JenAtlanta on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:39:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Isn't part of the (none)
        consequence of these gay marriage bans to indirectly state that anyone who isn't married isn't a "real" family, thus, no family no "family violence".

        In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

        by a gilas girl on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 07:18:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Depends on the amendment. (none)
          I'd say that it depends on the language.  Georgia's Constitutional amendment bars same-sex marriage and arguably civil unions.

          But, Georgia's Family Violence statute covers people who are living together but aren't romantically together, so they're defining family rather broadly.

          I don't think our amendment would have any effect on the statute, but.. I could be missing an argument.

          The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions.

          by JenAtlanta on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 07:31:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  the PDs are arguing that it has (none)
            At least by these statutes in Ohio, wonder if this will be used elsewhere. When the issue was being promoted, many folks said it would have unintended consequences for "common law" relationships, I don't remember DV  being mentioned.
            •  Ohio v. Georgia (none)
              The language is different.

              Ohio's constitutional amendment specifically mentions "unmarried persons" - which could be gf/bf or gay couples -- versus Georgia which only mentions gay couples.

              Further, I suspect that Ohio's Domestic Violence statute covers only romantic relationships, whether they're married or not.  And I think the PD's are right in their interpretation.

              Based on Georgia's Constitutional amendment, I don't think the same argument would be successful.

              The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions.

              by JenAtlanta on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 07:43:24 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  thanks (none)
            I really can't think like a lawyer, so I'm forever grateful when someone breaks down laws and legal arguments for me.

            In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

            by a gilas girl on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 07:40:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  It seems odd (none)
      It seems odd that there's separate laws on domestic violence in the first place.

       that 1/3rd of the women murdered in this country are killed by their boy friends or husbands too. In other words, there are seperate laws because DV is so common andbecause, like rape, it has been difficult to make law enforcement take it seriously. Part of the reason for this is that 40% of law enforcement officers self-identify as domestic abusers.
      In my community it took the police chief shooting his wife (and then himself) in the head on a strip mall parking lot in front of their two children a couple of years ago to force law enforcement to take it seriously.

      "...the definition of a gaffe in Washington is somebody who tells the truth but shouldn't have." Howard Dean

      by colleen on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:49:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting consequence. (none)
    PD's Office is getting creative.

    The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions.

    by JenAtlanta on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:34:30 AM PST

    •  yeah, (none)
      one of those situations where I don't know whether to be glad (since it could lead to striking down the law) or concerned (dv is such a horrible problem).  I'm hoping that no matter what the courts do, enforcer awareness of dv and how to handle is fairly  well ingrained.
  •  Are these clients gay? (none)
    This says they are. What is the likelihood of the judge ruling that gays are not to be punished under these laws but heterosexual relationships are? Since the state courts as well as most people in Ohio probably view gays and gay relationships as subuman, the law would stand.
    •  gay clients (none)
      I think that might have been the headline writer's failure to read the whole article. The AP article that I read in the Dispatch didn't indicate one way or another the sexual orientation, and it was implied in the public defender's statement that it was a man and a woman, " The thing is, you can only get a domestic violence charge now if you are a wife beater, not a girlfriend beater," said Jeff Lazarus, a law clerk for public defender Robert Tobik who helped draft the motions to dismiss.

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