[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Ohio [official website] ruled Wednesday that unmarried couples are subject to domestic violence statutes [opinion, PDF], despite the fact that the law refers to those "living as a spouse." The case arose when a man charged under the domestic violence statute for alleged abuse of his live-in girlfriend attempted to argue that the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage [text] prevented the state from giving legal status to any unmarried couples. The court held that a variety of couples are included within the definition of the law, as the law refers to those who are living together, rather than those who are married. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer [official profile] wrote that:
While the intent of the domestic-violence statute is to protect persons from violence by close family members or residents of the same household, the intent of the marriage amendment was to prevent the creation or recognition of a legal status that approximates marriage through judicial, legislative, or executive action. The statute and the constitution are not in conflict.The one dissenting justice argued that using the term "living as a spouse" in this manner gives an unmarried relationship a type of legal status normally only associated with marriage. The ACLU applauded the decision [press release] for upholding domestic violence protections for all residents of Ohio.
In a related 2005 case, an Ohio trial court decision [PDF text] held that the domestic violence law was incompatible with the state constitution [JURIST report], "insofar as it recognizes as a 'family or household member' a person who is not married to the offender but is 'living as a spouse.'" The trial judge held that the constitutional amendment was very broad, amounting to a ban on the legal status of all unmarried couples. AP has more.