By The Associated Press
DAYTON, Ohio – A constitutional amendment banning marriage equality bars prosecutors from charging some unmarried people under the state’s domestic violence law, a state appeals court ruled.
Friday’s decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeals is the first from Ohio’s 12 appellate courts to rule that the Defense of Marriage amendment, passed by voters in 2004, means that the domestic violence law does not apply to unmarried people.
The appeals court upheld the dismissal of a domestic violence charge against Karen Ward of Fairborn, charged with assaulting her live-in boyfriend in Greene County.
Ohio’s amendment defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman and barred the state from granting legal status to unmarried couples.
Judges have differed in their interpretation of how that applies to the domestic violence law, which some judges have argued gives unmarried couples a special legal status.
In December, two state appeals courts – one in Cleveland, the other in Middletown – ruled that lower courts were wrong to throw out domestic violence charges against two men who had live-in girlfriends. Both lower courts had ruled the charges unconstitutional.
The issue needs to be resolved by the Ohio Supreme Court, said Greene County First Assistant Prosecutor Suzanne Schmidt.
“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.
The marriage amendment also has prompted lawsuits involving custody disputes and health insurance for same-sex partners of public university employees.