A judge said unmarried people can't be prosecuted for domestic violence.
LEBANON, Ohio (AP) -- A county prosecutor is appealing a judge's ruling that unmarried people cannot be prosecuted for domestic violence because of a new law banning gay marriage.
Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson ruled Tuesday that a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November prohibits the extension of domestic violence laws to unmarried couples.
Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel has appealed the ruling, which was issued in a case against a man charged with beating someone to whom he was not married.
The amendment passed by Ohio voters defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It bans legal status such as civil unions to unmarried people. But judges have differed in their interpretation of how that applies to domestic violence charges.
In Cuyahoga County, dozens of cases have been thrown out. In Athens and Columbus, prosecutors have said they won't change the way domestic violence cases are handled.
"The purpose of [the amendment] was to prevent gay marriage and civil unions," Hutzel said in a statement. "The purpose of the domestic violence laws are to provide additional protections to victims of violence from relatives or intimate partners. These are different concepts, and there is no reason that both goals should be seen to be in conflict."
In one case, a Cuyahoga County judge cited the amendment in reducing a felony domestic violence charge to a misdemeanor assault charge.
Seventeen states have constitutional language defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Ohio's is regarded as the broadest marriage amendment of those passed by 11 states on Nov. 2 because it bans civil unions and legal status to all unmarried couples and gay marriages.
Rep. William Healy, a Canton Democrat, has introduced legislation to redefine "household member" in the state's domestic violence law as any people living together. The law now refers to "a person living as a spouse."