Dayton Daily News
March 26, 2006
by Amelia Robinson
County prosecutors in Dayton, Ohio are now prohibited from enforcing the state’s domestic violence laws if the involved parties are not married. The appeals court for the 2nd District finds that such enforcement is in conflict with Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning the recognition of unmarried relationships. That amendment is strikingly similar to one that will be on the ballot in Virginia in November.
Regarding the Ohio amendment:
The amendment says the state cannot “create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the … effect of marriage.” [emphasis added]
But the appellate court said the state’s domestic violence law, which includes protection for “a person living as a spouse,” conflicts with the amendment.
“The state or any subdivision shall not recognize these unions,” said Greene County Common Pleas Judge Stephen Wolaver, the trial judge who dismissed the charges against Ward.
Montgomery County assistant public defender Michael R. Pentecost predicted Saturday that the appeal’s court decision also will limit the ability of unmarried people to get domestic violence protection orders. State lawmakers may have to amend the law, he said.
“The people who backed this amendment were not thinking about these types of unintended consequences,” Pentecost said. “They got so overzealous.”
Update: ChangeServant has posted an excerpt from the decision that exposes both the consequences of the amendment language, and the intent. It goes on to illustrate that there is no logical stopping point for determining what, exactly, the “design, significance, effects, etc., of marriage” are. That excerpt, in part:
This appeal concerns the issue of whether the provision in the domestic violence statute extending the protections of that criminal statute to “a person living as a spouse” offends the Defense of Marriage amendment to the Ohio Constitution adopted by the voters in 2004 because it recognizes “a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the effect of marriage.”
We conclude that it does.