Ohio Judge Rules that Same-Sex Marriage Ban Affects Domestic Violence Law

A state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage may pose a threat to Ohio’s domestic violence laws, according to a ruling by a judge on Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman reduced felony charges against Frederick Burk, a man charged with domestic violence for slapping and pushing his live-in girlfriend, to a misdemeanor assault charge.

Friedman said that domestic violence laws only apply to married couples. Under Ohio’s marriage amendment, legal status cannot be granted to same-sex couples, or to unmarried couples like Burk and his girlfriend.

Under the new ruling, Burk faces a maximum of six months in jail, compared to eighteen months if he was found guilty of domestic violence charges.

Prosecutors fear Friedman’s ruling will threaten future domestic violence cases. They plan to appeal the ruling.

Those who oppose the same-sex marriage ban say that the judge’s decision may fuel efforts to repeal the marriage amendment. Among the seventeen states that have a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman, Ohio’s is the broadest because it applies to both same-sex and unmarried couples.