This is twisted. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Ohio’s quarter-century-old domestic-violence law gives special criminal status to an assault by a family or household member and establishes unique protections for the victim. Courts also have consistently applied it to homosexual couples.
It is one of only two criminal offenses – along with menacing by stalking – that automatically gives the victim access to a protective order to keep the defendant away, and police are obligated to enforce it. Further, a violation of the protective order, or any second offense, “accelerates” misdemeanor domestic-violence charges to a felony.
The law treats anyone “living as a spouse” the same as a spouse when it comes to domestic violence: It defines domestic violence as an attack, or attempted or threatened attack, against a household member, and includes unmarried couples – so-called cohabitants.
Therein lies the rub, the public defender’s office motions contend. The new amendment forbids any state or local law that would “create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design . . . of marriage.”
Yet, that is exactly what the domestic-violence law does for unmarried couples living together, says Lazarus, a third-year law student who drew up the boilerplate motion to dismiss. The law, he wrote, “clearly creates a legal relationship between unmarried individuals.”
So, that’s twisted.
And this is even more twisted: Lazarus is doing this because he’s a gay rights activist.
Yet the public defender’s tactic gives hope for opponents of Issue 1, which Ohio voters approved in November. Some lawyers who oppose the amendment say if a judge sides with the public defender’s reasoning, the court could declare the amendment a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law. Specifically, a married victim of domestic violence would have more protection than an unmarried neighbor beaten by a live-in lover, and married and unmarried defendants would be treated differently as well.
Alexandria Ruden, a Legal Aid Society domestic-violence lawyer and battered-women’s advocate, said she hopes that instead of having the unintended consequence of undermining part of the domestic-violence law, Issue 1′s unintended consequence will be its own self-destruction.
“Hopefully, instead of the [domestic-violence] statute, it will blow out the constitutional amendment,” said Ruden, who co-authored a leading legal text on Ohio’s domestic-violence law.
That, Lazarus acknowledged, is exactly why he concocted the public defender’s line of attack.
“Personally, when I was brainstorming this, it was with an eye toward, ‘How could we make this amendment look not so good?’ ” he said Wednesday.
There’s very few actions I won’t support in favor of full equality for lesbians and gays. And I guess that Lazarus could claim that he’s not attacking victims of DV, he’s just making it explicit that measure 1 attacks victims of DV. I don’t want to rush to judgment about a plan that Ms Ruden, who sounds like a very substantive advocate of DV victims, doesn’t sound hell-bent against. Maybe learning more will make me change my mind on this one.
But that all tastes sourly of rationalization. Full marriage equality is an important goal, but it’s not the only important goal. Nor is this strategy the only way of fighting measure 1.
Domestic violence victims are not tools to be used instrumentally to advance other people’s rights, but that’s how Lazarus is treating them. To attack the legal rights of domestic violence victims for political purposes is disgusting, no matter what your political purpose is.