by Hannah McCartney
Four sitting bills would offer amped-up victim protection
Two bills discussed today at a hearing of the Ohio House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee would, if passed, offer greater protections to victims of domestic violence and extend them more legal rights to protect their employment, housing and financial livelihood.Those bills will join H.B. 243 and H.B. 160, which are still awaiting hearings before the judiciary committee and would, respectively, require individuals served with temporary protection orders to surrender their firearms and offer legal protection to the pets of domestic violence victims — often cited as a reason victims have difficulty leaving a violent situation. Most significant are the changes that would be implemented by H.B. 297, first introduced to the Ohio House in October by Reps. Ann Gonzales (R-Westerville) and Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). The bill outlines new legal protections for domestic violence victims who need to terminate a rental agreement or take unpaid leave at work in order to deal with domestic violence incidences. Under the bill, victims of domestic violence would be legally protected against termination at work and have the ability to dissolve a rental lease if the tenant has been a victim of domestic violence. The bill would also prohibit landlords from kicking out tenants because they've been victims of domestic violence at the residence and requires them to comply with requests to change locks when a tenant has been a victim of stalking or menacing. H.B. 309, also introduced in October, by Reps. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) and Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), would dissolve any charges related to modifications made to a domestic violence, anti-stalking or other type of protection order or consent agreementIn August, CityBeat spoke with domestic violence victim Andrea Metil, who talked about her personal experiences with legal trip-ups that made protecting herself from her attacker difficult. Metil called for stronger legislation to protect victims of domestic violence. This is the first hearing for both of the bills.
by Hannah McCartney
Becker worried a same-sex marriage case will turn U.S. socialist, make him cry
When my brother and I were little kids, we used to play
board games all the time, and because I was older and smarter I usually
won. Back in those days, my little bro didn’t really understand the
concept of sportsmanship and he would sometimes defiantly flip over the entire Stratego
board when I started to win a game and get really close to finding his flag, and then he’d storm off and say I
cheated (I didn’t cheat, Dylan!).
Republican Rep. John Becker is pretty upset that a
terminally ill gay man has earned the right to die in peace, and now
it’s become a very real possibility that other gay Ohioans might also
get to die (and live) in peace. And, just like my brother, he’s kind of trying to
ruin the game for everyone just because he’s losing.
In July, Judge Timothy Black heard the case of Jim
Obergefell and John Arthur, a long-term gay couple who flew to Maryland
to marry at the beginning of the month because Arthur is terminally ill,
in hospice care, and not expected to live much longer.
Obergefell and Arthur sued the state of Ohio for
discrimination in not recognizing their out-of-state gay marriage, legal
and recognized in Maryland, when other gay couples residing in states
recognizing same-sex marriages and subsequently moved to Ohio would have
their marriages treated as valid. And because Arthur is terminally ill, it's just as much for the emotional connection as it is for any kind of economic benefit. Here's what Obergefell wrote in his original complaint (grab a tissue):“Our legacy as a married couple is very important to John
and me… in two or more generations our descendants will not know who we
are. Married couples, often through research based on death records,
have recognition for their special status forever. I want my descendants
generations from now who research their history to learn that I loved
and married John and that he loved and married me. They will know that
they had gay ancestor who was proud and strong and in love.” In his ruling, Black called the case “not complicated,”
explaining that he’d allow the marriage to be legalized on Arthur’s
death certificate because it was likely a constitutional violation that
the state of Ohio treated lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages
differently than lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages.
In September, he ruled to allow the marriage of another gay
couple — David Michener and William Herbert Ives — after Ives
unexpectedly passed away in late August. Although these aren't (yet) blanket rulings, they're being interpreted as monumental victories for supporters of marriage equality.
Becker, then, decided to do the political equivalent of my
brother running to my mom and accusing me of cheating; he wrote U.S.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup and called for Black to be impeached for “malfeasance
and abuse of power,” which apparently made him really concerned about
the “federal government’s ever growing propensity to violate state
Unfortunately, though, U.S. District Court judges are
appointed for life, so since Becker’s claims against Judge Black are
totally unfounded, Black is free to continue to anger Becker and other people who don't approve of equality for gay couples. Alphonse Gerhardstein, the attorney for both couples, calls Becker's response to the rulings "bullying.""Federal judges are granted tenure for life for a reason. It's their job to enforce core principles even when the majority disagrees," he says. "Look at the Dred Scott case. I think most people would agree that's the worst case decision ever made by a judge, and even he didn't get impeached." (In case you forget, he's talking about Dred Scott v. Sandford, the landmark 1857 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ruled black people weren't citizens.) Things that actually can get a judge impeached, says Gerhardstein, are offenses like having sex with a criminal defendant or taking bribes. On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the court added licensed funeral director Robert Grunn, who is responsible for registering deaths and providing personal information to the state on what should go on a death certificate, to the list of plaintiffs. Grunn currently serves same-sex couples when he signs death certificates, says the lawsuit, including those with marriages recognized outside the state of Ohio. The lawsuit, if successful, could require all funeral directors to recognize gay clients as married on death certificates if they were legally married in a different state. Gerhardstein also says since accepting Arthur and Obergefell's case, he and his colleagues have received inquiries from between 30 to 50 other gay couples seeking legal recognitions of their out-of-state marriages. For now, he says, he and his firm are concentrating on cases specifically involving recognizing same-sex marriages on death certificates, although this litigation could (and probably will) lead to other blanket rulings on how same-sex marriages are recognized in Ohio. Another hearing with Judge Black is scheduled for Dec. 18.
by Hannah McCartney
Plaintiffs: Out-of-state same-sex marriages must be treated equally
A gay couple living in Ohio has filed a lawsuit today against the state of Ohio for failing to recognize their Maryland-certified same-sex marriage, which they claim is discriminatory because the state is required to recognize any certified heterosexual marriage from another state as valid. Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive and disabling neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, traveled to Maryland last week to officially tie the knot after remaining as partners for 20 years, reports Cincinnati.com. The trip reportedly cost nearly $13,000 for a chartered, medically-equipped plane, all of which was sourced by donations from friends and family. Arthur, 47, is a bed-ridden hospice patient and was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. In a press release from Gerhardstein & Branch, the legal association representing the couple, Obergefell stated that not recognizing Arthur's marriage on his death certificate, when the time comes, would be unconstitutional. "It is the final record of a citizen's life. It must be accurate. We hope that this can be one small step toward making marriage equality a reality in Ohio and perhaps all 50 states," he noted. Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who is representing Arthur and Obergefell, cites the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause, noting that the Supreme Court's historic overturn of DOMA has stripped states of the right to discriminate against couples who seek same-sex marriages. "John and James were validly married in Maryland. If they were an opposite sex couple, Ohio would recognize their marriage. Being a same-sex couple is no longer a good enough reason to deny them equal rights.”As an example, he explains that should two first cousins fall in love in the state of Ohio, they can't be wed in Ohio and have their union recognized; however, should they travel to Georgia, where marrying your first cousin is legal, they could come back to Ohio and have a recognizable union under state law, enjoying the same benefits as any other heterosexual married couple in Ohio. The same rules would follow for other stipulations prohibited under Ohio law, such as getting married underage in another state where the union would be legal. Defense attorneys Terry Nester and Bridget Koontz were not available for comment. CityBeat will update this story with any changes. Gerhardstein told CityBeat that the plaintiffs will go before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Monday, July 22, to ask for an expedited ruling in light of Arthur's rapidly deteriorating condition. "Had the Supreme Court made this decision one year ago, this would have been as simple as us taking a trip because I could still walk. It's the progression for me of the ALS, it's...it's just compounded everything," he told Cincinnati.com camera crews earlier this week.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: Cycling
at 01:19 PM | Permalink
Melvin White charged with vehicular homicide in death of Andrew Gast
The driver who accidentally hit and killed Cincinnati cyclist Andrew Gast, 27, along Wilmer Avenue in the East end last year on Aug. 29, 2012 will be sentenced by a judge on Monday, July 22. More than 700 riders attended a "ghost ride" to support Gast and his family following his death. According to a press release from local bicycle advocacy organization Queen City Bike, Melvin White was originally charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide after police investigated the accident, which took place early, around 6 a.m., on a foggy morning. Following an investigation, however, police found that although White was speeding at the time of the accident and was following Gast too closely, there were not factors at play to warrant an "aggravated" charge. His defense accepted a plea deal from prosecutors in which White pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide, the maximum penalty for which is six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. According to the press release, the Cincinnati Cycle Club and Queen City Bike are requesting that White receive the maximum penalty. Gast did, as required by law, have both a front-end light and a rear-end light on his bike at the time of the crash. His death was the first of two Cincinnati cyclist fatalities to occur in a two-week period last fall; 59-year-old Ronald Richardson of Bond Hill was struck and killed by a Metro bus driver when he swerved into the bus's path on Sept. 11, 2012, around 8:30 p.m., when it was also dark outside. Both Richardson and Gast where pedaling along the side of the road when they were hit. Although the Cincinnati Cycle Club and Queen City Bike are expected to make a joint statement to the court officially requesting the maximum penalty, they're also asking that White donate to Queen City Blinkies, a program that distributes and installs free bike lights to the Cincinnati cycling community, in lieu of a court fine. Under Ohio law, bicycles are considered vehicles are allowed to ride on the road, where they must obey all municipal traffic laws. See the city of Cincinnati's "Pocket Bike Law Guide" here. White will be sentenced at 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 22 at the Hamilton County Court House on 1000 Main St. downtown.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I talked to my kids about Trayvon Martin,
the flaws and intricacies of the American judicial system, about racial
profiling and about how the smallest of bad choices can keep them from
coming home at the end of the day.
Reviewing the outdated, overly conservative and just plain funny laws still on the books
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
We decided to look into Ohio and Northern Kentucky laws to see if there
was anything else totally absurd (possibly sexist) left in writing in
the Ohio Revised Code/Cincinnati Municipal Code/other codes. And there was nothing too bizarre, but
some of the laws’ requirements and wording are hilarious, incredibly
obvious and/or idiotic.
by Hannah McCartney
Lawyer calls 1996 law "across-the-board disrespect"
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled today that the 16-year Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional for banning federal benefits for married same-sex couples. The Court's three judges ruled unanimously that DOMA is discriminatory because it denies equal rights to same-sex married couples. The ruling applies only to the regions included in the circuit: Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico. Despite the unanimous decision, no changes will take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case, which is expected to be appealed. The ruling still marks a significant victory for the gay rights community, as it signifies a unified federal effort to institute provisions that support marriage equality across genders and sexualities. The decision also comes just days after the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by The Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, which challenged Attorney General Mike DeWine's approval of the legality of the language in a proposed state ballot which, if passed, would legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Ohio. DOMA, passed in 1996, doesn't specifically invalidate same-sex marriages in states that rule to legalize them, but it trivializes the meaning of marriage for such couples by specifically prohibiting married gay couples from possessing same benefits as married homosexual couples, including the ability to:
File taxes jointly
Take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse
Receive spousal, mother’s and father’s, or surviving spouse benefits under Social Security
Receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employeesThe Court did not rule on the second provision of DOMA, which verbalizes that states that don't approve of same-sex marriage can't be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's
legal, nor did the court decide whether or the act of gay marriage is actually constitutional.Since its passage, several states have taken their own stances on gay marriage, while eight states — beginning with Massachusetts in 2004 — have legalized same-sex marriage. In Feb. 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA's constitutionality after several large-scale challenges to the act — a decision quickly combated by Ohio House Speaker John Boehner with the formation of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, an assemblage of standing House representatives, to defend DOMA. In arguments before the Circuit Court in April, Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), called DOMA a result of Congress' "moral disapproval." "It is simply that, frankly, Congress just didn't want to deal with same-sex couples ... this is across-the-board disrespect," she stated in the hearings.Earlier this month, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to openly approve same-sex marriage. Ohio belongs in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also encompasses Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
Bike advocates offer tips on making the most of your commute
2 Comments · Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The light bulb that is Cincinnati’s
cycling culture is shining brighter than ever as more people switch out
steering wheels for handlebars for their morning and evening treks to
and from work. The reasons are multitude: to keep in shape, save a hunk
on gas, use green transportation or just to slip some fresh air into the
long days at the office.
7 Comments · Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Most ultra-conservatives hate Big Government. Until they use it for their own personal benefit, that is. A case in point is local attorney Chris Finney, a conservative activist whos railed against the evils of excessive governmental power and wasteful spending for years.