|Watch Me Take The Bar|
|This blog, originally started as a chronicle of my taking the bar, is now a look into the mind of an attorney in solo practice in Port Clinton, Ohio.|
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Focus On What We Call A Family
Bassett here. Happy Easter, first of all. I apologize for the lack of posts lately; I've just had not much to say and figured your disappointment at seeing no new posts would be less than your disappointment at seeing crappy posts.
All right, that out of the way. There's this ugly little end of domestic violence jurisprudence percolating in Ohio that I haven't really blogged on much because every time this issue is raised, most judges see how ridiculous it is. Sadly, that appears to not be the case in Ohio's Second District, which led me to think it was time to write about it. The straw that broke the camel's back, though, was when I discovered that a supposedly pro-family organization is out there campaigning (albeit quietly) to remove protections for people who are abused.
Back in 2004, we here in Ohio passed a defense of marriage amendment to our constitution so that none of those liberal pinko Commie prevert gays could go gettin' hitched like in those crazy places like Massachusetts or California. (Some people think it was on the ballot to get W reelected, but I'm quite sure Karl Rove got all these things on the ballot because he was really worried about the defense of marriage.)
We call this the defense of marriage amendment because you know that every time another gay couple gets married, one of two things happens: (1) A man, heretofore straight and happily married for 40 years, suddenly announces, "Honey, I'm gonna go marry Freddy because I can!" and skips out of the closet to become a sodomite, or (2) A high school sophomore, who has heretofore been ogling the cheerleaders and looking at "Playboy" suddenly makes the choice to become gay and starts lusting after the quarterback and sneaking glimpses at "Playgirl." (You'e seen it happen so often. Who among us doesn't know a high school sophomore male who has suddenly lost all interest in girls?)
Plus, if we allowed gay marriages, pretty soon, there would be no men and women getting married at all, because it would make people decide to be gay.
Nasty business, that. So glad we all voted to defend marriage.
Well, it appears that defending marriage does not come without a price. (That's in addition to driving away people who are gay, and who often have higher incomes and spending power. Because if there's one thing we in Ohio don't need, it's upwardly mobile professionals with money to spend.)
The statute that makes domestic violence in Ohio a crime (ORC 2919.25) lists a number of persons who are not to be victims of domestic violence. One class listed is a "person living as a spouse," that is, someone who has been cohabitating.
Well, in the course of defending marriage in Ohio, we added this dandy little provision to the Constitution: "This state 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 effect of marriage."
What that means, according to defense attorneys, is that the "person living as a spouse" provision gives you the same protection of being a spouse, it gives your unmarried-persons relationship a legal status that approximates the effect of marriage, ergo, you can beat up on your live-in all you want. If she wants protection from domestic violence, she'll have to get married. (And frequent readers of this blog can guess my views on how well that works out.)
So, people have gotten Common Pleas court judges to dismiss their indictments for domestic violence so long as the person they were committing violence against wasn't married to them. Some (in fact, I would say the majority of) appellate courts have said balderdash to this proposal, but others have upheld it. Insofar as we have appellate courts conflicting, the matter will most likely go to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Second Appellate District is one of those places in which unmarried persons do not have protection against domestic violence. A decision recently handed down found that the defense of marriage amendment left unmarried persons defenseless.
I won't bore you with the details of the decision (as I said, this will all be decided by the Supreme Court), but I found interesting one of the groups that the court indicated has taken a position on this issue. The "Citizens for Community Values" organization has come down in favor of not extending domestic violence protection to unmarried persons.
I was interested to see who the Citizens for Community Values was, so I visited their website. It appears they don't like pornography or sexually oriented businesses, are against gambling, and, of course, homosexuality is a problem. Surprisingly, they did not list anywhere that I could see that they were making it easier to get domestic violence charges dismissed.
What really interested me was this -- a very small-print comment on the top of the page. "Officially Associated with Focus on the Family as a Family Policy Council in Ohio."
You all know Focus on the Family -- that's Dr. James Dobson's group, which is hugely interested in family issues.
Dr. Dobson has written numerous books on how to raise children. I would expect he's truly interested in their well-being.
Dr. Dobson, do you really think it's a good idea that unmarried persons now have no protection under domestic violence statutes? How about the children of these unmarried persons, who are either victims of or witnesses to violence?
So, I visited Dr. Dobson's website. I typed the word "domestic" into a search engine, and the first thing that popped up was an article entitled "The Truth About Domestic Violence in Marital Versus Cohabitational Relationships."
The first paragraph begins, "Domestic violence is a rampant problem and plage in our nation today." Well, I agree with that. The writer is concerned with a perception that marriage is a dangerous place as a result of the prevalance of domestic violence. In fact, the article says, "With the use of the term domestic violence, the connotation of spousal abuse or "wife beating" is quick to follow. However, after considering the following you may actually find that “girlfriend beating” is a more appropriate term."
I'm going to dissect those two sentences. Hang with me.
"With the use of the term domestic violence, the connotation of spousal abuse or 'wife beating' is quick to follow." -- Here, the author suggests that there is a definition in place of domestic violence which indicates that it only occurs between married persons.
" However," -- term commonly used to indicate a viewpoint contra to what has just been expressed.
"after considering the following you may actually find that “girlfriend beating” is a more appropriate term." -- and, ergo, that girlfriends can be subject to domestic violence, as well.
The article then goes on to indicate how safe marriage is. Apparently, of all violent crime committed against women by intmate partners, 65% occurs by a "boyfriend or ex-husband," while only 9% is committed by husbands. Ergo, marriage is safe.
(Wait. Didn't they say 65% was boyfriend OR ex-husband. Ex-husband -- term commonly used to denote a person one has been married to in the past. So, apparently, you can't be not married and you can't be divorced, either.)
The author then indicates that those who cohabit are far more likely to find themseles in a violent relationship. Among other reasons, there is a lack of support, and, the question is asked, "Where is a woman to turn when her cohabitational relationship becomes abusive?"
Not, apparently, to the domestic violence law.
Dr. Dobson's organization apparently believes that people who are not married are at the greatest risk of domestic violence. And an organization affiliated with Dr. Dobson's apparently believes that those at the greatest risk should have the least protection.
Focus on the Family should immediately disassociate itself with the Coalition for Community Values -- just as they would not associate with anyone who thinks making life easier for batterers is a good thing.
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