Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Amendment of Unintended Consequences

Critics of Ohio's constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage have always warned that it was overly broad and would have many unintended consequences.

The amendment passed despite widespread opposition to it from major figures on both sides of the aisle. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was the only major Ohio Republican that supported the amendment.

The Akron Beacon Journal is reporting one of those potential consequences: A Cleveland area man is claiming that Ohio's domestic violence laws does not apply to him because he is in an unmarried relationship.
Darnell Forte is accused of slapping a woman he lived with. To try to get a domestic violence charged overturned, his lawyer has raised a wider issue, claiming a conflict between Ohio's new constitutional amendment defining marriage and the state's domestic violence law.
The problem comes from the wording in Ohio's domestic violence law and the broad language of the newly passed amendment.

Ohio’s 1979 domestic violence law applies to a “spouse, a person living as a spouse, or former spouse.” This has been interpreted to include unmarried couples, including same-sex ones.

But the second sentence of the amendment, passed in November as Issue 1, reads: “This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effect of marriage.”

During the Issue 1 campaign, domestic violence advocates warned that this could be used to void parts of the domestic violence law.

The motions to dismiss domestic violence charges assert that the law creates a legal relationship between unmarried individuals that the state can no longer recognize under the amendment, which is now Article 15, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution.