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Ohio court upholds state domestic violence laws

The highly restrictive marriage amendment in Ohio was the cause of much concern because of its unintended impact on victims of domestic violence (gay or straight). (365gay):

In a 6-1 decision, justices rejected the argument that the domestic violence law was unenforceable in cases involving unmarried couples because it refers to them as living together “as a spouse.”

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote in the opinion that lawmakers included many groups under the domestic violence law, and that describing people’s living arrangements isn’t the same as creating a law approximating marriage.

The gay marriage ban prohibited the government from creating any such approximation.

“The state does not create cohabitation; rather it is a person’s determination to share some of life’s responsibilities with another that creates cohabitation,” Moyer wrote. “The state does not have a role in creating cohabitation, but it does have a role in creating a marriage.”

Equality Ohio‘s Lynne Bowman points out the problem with the ruling and its impact on same-sex couples. (State of Ohio v. Carswell):

Equality Ohio is pleased that the second sentence of the amendment was narrowly defined by the court in this instance. The decision keeps in place increased protections for persons who are victims of violence at the hands of someone with whom they live.

However, this decision does not address same-sex couples and their families who continue to suffer in the wake of the Amendment. In fact, the court’s statement seems to single out same-sex couples for an even more narrow and hostile interpretation of the Amendment language. The court’s statement specifically says: “The second sentence of the amendment prohibits the state and its political subdivisions from circumventing the mandate of the first sentence by recognizing a legal status similar to marriage (for example, a civil union).” By specifically listing “civil union” as an example the court has made life even harder for same-sex couples trying to care for each other and their children in Ohio.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding