Thursday, October 26, 2006

Will Virginia repeat Ohio problems created by ban on relationships similar to marriage?

Two years ago the voters of Ohio passed an amendment to their state constitution very similar to the one Virginia voters will face in two weeks. The language beyond the simple ban on same sex marriages has created legal problems for people in unmarried relationships.

This article is in today’s Washington Post:
Last year, an Ohio man accused of abusing his girlfriend tried a unique defense: He argued that the domestic violence law under which he was charged conflicted with a new constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and other relationships that sought to "approximate" marriage.

Michael Carswell's case wound its way through the legal system and is now before the Ohio Supreme Court. It has touched off similar challenges to domestic violence statutes in the state. Two appellate courts found that the constitutional amendment exempts unmarried couples from prosecution under domestic violence laws, but eight courts have ruled otherwise.

Yesterday, people who work with victims of domestic violence in Virginia warned that Carswell's case -- and dozens of similar challenges that followed in Ohio -- could put Virginia in a similar legal limbo if voters pass a similarly worded constitutional amendment Nov. 7.

The ballot question before Virginia voters bans same-sex marriages and civil unions but also would prohibit the state from recognizing relationships intended to "approximate the design, qualities, significance or effects of marriage." That language is nearly identical to the text of the Ohio constitutional amendment, which was passed in November 2004. Opponents in Virginia have said that the state is sure to see similar challenges, which could prevent victims from receiving protection while such challenges are litigated.
Read the entire article here. To volunteer or to make a contribution to defeat this amendment, go to the Commonwealth Coalition web site.

1 comment:

Bill Garnett said...

Consider an unmarried couple, gay or straight, that decides in Virginia that they want to approximate the rights and benefits of marriage and who go to an attorney and pay untold amounts of money to have wills, contracts, visitation rights, declarations concerning life sustaining procedures, child custody, etc. etc. drawn up.

“This Commonwealth 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 effects of marriage”

Legal experts are already having opposing views on whether or not these documents are prima facie evidence of a violation of the marriage amendment. When there is anything at stake: property, children, emotions, etc, you can be sure there will be endless litigation.