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Spring 2005 Family Law Decisions In Different States

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Issue 27, Spring 2005

Court Decisions from Other States
by Rebecca Shiemke, MPLP Family Law Attorney

There have been several interesting decisions from other states, primarily relating to issues of domestic violence.

Ohio's gay marriage ban affects domestic violence charges.

In March 2005, a criminal court judge in Cuyahoga County, Ohio reduced a felony domestic violence charge to a misdemeanor assault finding that domestic violence charges cannot be brought against unmarried people because Ohio's new constitutional amendment prohibits any state law that would "create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals." The decision was immediately appealed by the prosecutor.

The Fair House Act prohibits discrimination against domestic violence victims.

In the case of Bouley v Young-Sabourin a federal court in Vermont held that the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against domestic violence victims. The judge reasoned that discriminating against domestic violence victims constitutes sex discrimination under the Act because women are most often the victims of domestic violence. The ruling is also important because if women are no longer afraid that they will be evicted if they report incidents of domestic violence, they will be more likely to seek help from police and the courts. The case was handled by the ACLU Women's Rights Project and Vermont Legal Aid.

A link to the press release that was issued can be found below:

Domestic violence shelter's women-only policy is not illegal.

The California Women's Law Center reports that on April 27, 2005, the California Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the women only policy in effect at several Los Angeles shelters for battered women and their children. The Court found that because the shelters receive gender specific funding from the state, the women only policy is not illegal sex discrimination. The decision recognizes the particular privacy and safety needs of domestic violence victims. The action was filed by the National Coalition of Free Men and the shelters were represented by the California Women's Law Center and a private law firm pro bono.