|Unmarried Americans scored one
win and suffered one setback this month. The legal victory
occurred in Ohio while the political loss happened in Rhode
The Ohio Supreme
Court ruled on July 25 that unmarried couples are protected
under that state's domestic violence law.
With only one dissent, the
justices rejected an argument that the domestic violence law did
not apply to unmarried couples because the law refers to them as
living together "as a spouse."
The Ohio Defense
of Marriage Amendment states that the state of Ohio "shall not
create or recognize a legal status for relationships of
unmarried individuals." The domestic violence statute included
abusers "living as a spouse" as domestic violence offenders.
The ruling involved the case of a man accused of assaulting his
live-in girlfriend. His defense attorney argued that the
defendant could not be charged with domestic violence because
the state constitution's ban on gay marriage prohibits the state
from assigning legal status to unmarried couples.
"The state does not create cohabitation; rather it is a person's
determination to share some of life's responsibilities with
another that creates cohabitation," Chief Justice Thomas Moyer
wrote for the court's majority. "The state does not have a role
in creating cohabitation, but it does have a role in creating a
The case was being monitored closely by domestic violence
prevention advocates and civil liberties groups across the
nation. Twenty-seven states have constitutional language
defining marriage as between a man and a woman, according to the
National Conference of State Legislatures.
president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence,
called the Ohio ruling "a huge victory for domestic violence
victims across the country."
Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri vetoed a bill
that would have
required health insurers in that state to extend their coverage
of infertility diagnosis and treatment to single women.
Under current law, insurers are required to cover 80% of
infertility treatments for married women.
"As a matter of
public policy, the state should be encouraging the birth of
children to two-parent families, not the reverse," Carcieri said
in his veto message. "By removing the marriage
requirement, the legislation forces health insurance companies
to subsidize out-of-wedlock births."
"There are people
living in commitment relationships, whether they are
heterosexual or lesbian, who also provide a very good home life
for children," Rep. Edith Ajello, responded. "I don't
think the state should be getting involved with who could be
parents and who cannot."
Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate and
often override the conservative Republican governor. But
whether lawmakers will exercise their override power on a
socially touchy issue such as this remains to be seen.
As I mentioned in an earlier
column, one professional organization has taken a stand against
marital status discrimination by health care providers.
A report by the American Society
for Reproductive Medicine concluded that denying fertility services to
single people is unethical. Before reaching this
conclusion, the society considered the reproductive interests of
unmarried people, the interests of the children, and the
interest of service providers in deciding who to treat and who
not to treat.
Ultimately, the society found no
sound ethical basis for licensed professionals to deny
reproductive services to would-be parents because of their
marital status or sexual orientation.
The Center for Disease Control
reports that 16 percent of fertility clinics in the United
States will not treat single women.
So it would appear that
legislation mandating equal access by married and unmarried
people to fertility treatment is necessary.
the Democrats in the Rhode Island Legislature will exercise
their veto override power to outlaw such discrimination by
health care providers.
To read other editions of
Column One, click here.
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
email@example.com. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and