The Law of Unintended Consequences: The Far-Reaching Effects of Same-Sex Marriage Ban Amendments

Pending publication in Quinnipiac Law Review, Fall 2006


In 2004, thirteen states passed same-sex marriage ban amendments in response to a Massachusetts ruling from the previous year that sanctioned marriage for gay couples. Most of the amendments contained two prongs that defined marriage and also prohibited legal recognition of unmarried relationships in an attempt to avoid marriage substitutes, such as civil unions.

These amendments not only blatantly discriminate against same-sex couples by barring them from marriage, but the amendments also insidiously cause further damage by using undefined and ambiguous language capable of discriminating against gays and lesbians in ways not admitted by the proponents and not intended by the voters.

One such unintended consequence is occurring in the State of Ohio where the Amendment is being interpreted to exclude both homosexual and heterosexual unmarried couples from the state’s domestic violence laws. Several state courts have held that the domestic violence laws conflict with the recently-enacted Amendment by unlawfully recognizing a legal status for unmarried couples.

This Note will address the duplicity of marriage amendments and discuss the aftermath as it is unfolding for domestic violence victims in Ohio. While the courts are unlikely to allow this unintended consequence affecting domestic violence victims to proceed, it is unfortunate that the intended consequence of intolerance towards gays will continue.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Law and Gender | Sexuality and the Law

Date of this Version

May 2006