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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Marriage amendments

Posted by: Hammer / 3:39 PM

I applaud the intent underlying this Pioneer Press article discussing the legal effects of amending Minnesota's constitution to prevent gay marriage. The article would have been more useful if the points of agreement from the four experts were clearly highlighted and the points of disagreement given more room for discussion.

The Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage support an amendment that probhits the state and its political subdivisions from recognizing a marriage "or its legal equivalent". Where does such language lead?

The FRC asserts that "liberals are even willing to throw women and children off the sled--just to appease the homosexual lobby." Liberals are at fault, of course, because the second distrct court of appeals of Ohio has upheld a trial court's dismissal of a criminal complaint against a woman for allegedly assaulting her live-in boyfriend. (State v. Ward, 2006 Ohio 1407)

Ohio already has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The amendment also bars the state from conferring "a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the * * * effect of marriage." Enter Karen Ward, charged with assaulting her boyfriend. Ohio's domestic violence statute, RC 2919.25, applies to "family or household members", which specifically applies to "a spouse, a person living as a spouse, or a former spouse". The Ohio court found that the statute which protected "a person living as a spouse" unconstitutionally conferred a legal status approximating marriage upon unmarried persons.

Could we reach the same result in Minnesota? MSA 609.2242 defines domestic assault as "Whoever does any of the following against a family or household member". "Family or household member" is defined in MSA 518B.01. Paragraphs (4) and (7) would likely apply even with a constitutional amendment:

What happened in Ohio would not happen in Minnesota. The definitions are different. Ohio simply needs to rewrite its domestic violence statute to protect people living as non-spouses.

Important questions remain. What are these legal equivalents of marriage that the amendment would deny gay couples? These intended consequences should be clearly spelled out to voters, so that people who haven't made up their minds will know exactly what they are voting for.


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