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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Overzealous

Oops. Who knew that when people support measures to ban same-sex marriage, they are also wiping away protections against domestic violence for men and women who are living together?

Anyone feeling misled and duped yet?


Domestic Violence Law Excludes Some
Appeals Court Rules Law Does Not Apply To People Living Together


DAYTON | County prosecutors cannot charge some unmarried people under Ohio's domestic violence law because it conflicts with the state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, this area's state appeals court ruled Friday.


The 2nd District Court of Appeals is the first of the state's 12 appellate courts to rule that the domestic violence law runs afoul of the Defense of Marriage amendment, passed by voters in 2004, and does not apply to "a person living as a spouse."


The appeals court upheld dismissal of a domestic violence charge against Karen S. Ward of Fairborn, charged with assaulting her "live-in boyfriend" in Greene County.

The ruling affects domestic violence cases in Champaign, Clark, Darke, Miami and Montgomery counties as well, Greene County First Assistant Prosecutor Suzanne Schmidt said.

Schmidt said her office will appeal the 2nd District Court's decision to the Ohio Supreme Court within 30 days.

Until the high court decides, unmarried defendants, who would have faced felony domestic violence charges, will be charged with misdemeanor assault charges in Greene County, Schmidt said.


"It's not protecting anyone," she said.


Ward was indicted in April, the second time Ward had been charged with domestic violence. Her attorney, Ellen Weprin, sought dismissal in May, arguing the state's domestic violence law, established in 1979, conflicted with the new constitutional 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."


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."


Judge Mike Fain wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge James A. Brogan concurred. Judge Mary Donovan dissented.


"The Defense of Marriage amendment is ... a part of the fundamental, organic law of Ohio," Fain wrote.


"We make no observations concerning the wisdom of the electorate in having adopted the amendment."…
— By Amelia Robinson, Dayton Daily News

[Hat tip: AMERICABlog]

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