Bigamy might seem to some people like an antiquated law, as offenses rarely occur.
Just last month, however, Boardman police took a report from a woman who said her husband married another woman.
On Jan. 13, a 30-year-old woman from Harmony, Pa., told police that she married the man March 5, 2004, in New Brighton, Pa., and that the two are still married.
Police said the woman recently learned that her husband had married another woman in Mahoning County. The ceremony took place at Forever Yours Wedding Chapel, 1714 Boardman-Poland Road, on Jan. 9, 2010, according to records.
Documents also state that the man did obtain a marriage license, with the application filed through Mahoning County Probate Court.
Bigamy is a first-degree misdemeanor offense under Ohio law, punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The law was changed in 1974 by the Ohio General Assembly to make bigamy a first-degree misdemeanor rather than a felony, according to Anderson’s Ohio Criminal Law Handbook.
Ohio law now states:
No married person shall marry another or continue to cohabit with such other person in this state.
It is an affirmative defense to a charge under this section that the actor’s spouse was continuously absent for five years immediately preceding the purported subsequent marriage, and was not known by the actor to be alive within that time.
Whoever violates this section is guilty of bigamy, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Marc Spindelman, law professor at Ohio State University, said other laws reinforce the bigamy statute.
“It’s a largely unnoticed but not at all insignificant feature of various constitutional marriage amendments. In addition to banning same-sex marriages, they regularly operate to preclude the state from recognizing plural marriages,” said Spindelman.
Ohio’s marriage amendment, adopted in 2004 by an initiative petition, states that “only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions.”
Spindelman said that historically, bigamy was outlawed because it was considered immoral.
“The historical answer is it’s a moral issue. Another reason is that when people think of practicing bigamy, they think of one husband and multiple wives, and then it’s considered a sexist institution,” Spindelman said.
This is not the first bigamy case in Boardman. One year ago, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended Boardman Atty. Dennis A. DiMartino from law practice for six months on a bigamy charge.
The high court said DiMartino falsely stated on a North Carolina marriage-license application that he never had been married before and married a woman in that state before finalizing his divorce from his wife in Ohio.