Local Judge Rules Ohio Amendment Unconstitutional

A judge has ruled that Ohio's ban on civil unions and marriage, approved by voters in 2004, is unconstitutional.

Like the one being proposed in Wisconsin, Ohio's amendment has two sentences. The first bans equal marriage rights for gay couples. The second bans "any legal status for relationships of unwed partners that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."

The Cleveland-based judge ruled that the Ohio amendment violates the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal protection under the laws because it denies legal protections--including domestic violence safeguards--to unmarried people. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the complete story.

It's a legal mess that will eventually be sorted out by a higher court. In the meantime, domestic violence victims are caught up in the consequences of this stupid political game.

Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, state senators who voted for the civil unions and marriage ban are trying their darnedest to look more moderate than they really are. They are working hard to deny the potential far-reaching consequences of their amendment.

Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz is sending out a letter that works hard to confuse his constituents and gloss over the dangers of the amendment. He writes (I assume referring to a Legislative Council memo circulated by Rep. Mark Gundrum in 2004):
The Legislative Council focused their analysis on a phrase in the second sentence of the proposed amendment, 'A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage...' They concurred the proposed amendment does not clearly define this phrase. However, they also concluded that, 'based upon the language chosen by the Legislature, a court could reasonably conclude that the proposed constitutional amendment is not intended to prohibit the recognition of private legal arrangements simply because those arrangements result in the parties enjoying a right or benefit that is the same as or similar to a right or benefit that married couples have access to.' In other words, same-sex couples who currently enjoy certain rights and benefits should not have those taken away under SJR 53.
Um, no. Nice try. Judges could also conclude that the intent of the amendment means no legal protections for unmarried couples. In fact, at least a few of the amendment backers have said publicly that it is their intention to limit rights and protections exclusively for married couples. Senator Carol Roessler stood up during the Senate debate to make this very point. This is coming from the same crowd that would like to end no-fault divorce and limit contraception.

The proposed Wisconsin amendment opens up a whole new, very messy legal can of worms. Just like what's happening in Ohio. Adding this far-reaching language to the Wisconsin Constitution is serious. It would invite unmarried men who have abused their girlfriends to challenge restraining orders. It would invite extreme right groups to challenge domestic partner policies. It would invite distant biological relatives to use the amendment in court to help them challenge a will that transmits dearly loved possessions to an unmarried partner.

Senator Schultz and his pals don't want Wisconsin voters to know what's happening in Ohio and other states that have passed these amendments. They don't want Wisconsin voters to know the amendment would preclude the possibility of civil unions.

They know a majority of Wisconsinites support civil unions. And that most people would be furious if domestic violence or other protections were reserved for married people only.

We're collecting letters sent by senators who voted for the amendment to their constituents. We will be tracking their disinformation tactics. If you get a hold of one, you can send it to me here.



At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The quote Senator Dale Schultz included in his misleading letter to constituents is from page 7. He picked one sentence out of a 10 page document and completely ignore the massive contradictory information in this memorandum dated April 8th 2008.

The conclusion infact predicts what we are seeing today in Michigan, Ohio and Utah.

No private contract will grant me the right to visit my partner in the hospital. Only legally recognized family status gives me that right. This Constitutional party controlling the legislature don't think I deserve that right. Where are the Republicans?


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