Ohio gay marriage ban at center of domestic violence challenge.
CLEVELAND - Darnell Forte is accused of slapping a woman he lived with. To try to get a domestic violence charged overturned, his lawyer has raised a wider issue, claiming a conflict between Ohio's new constitutional amendment defining marriage and the state's domestic violence law.
Opponents of the amendment banning gay marriage, among the nation's broadest, feared the measure would be used to try to curtail all sorts of rights for unmarried people, and they say the domestic violence case in Cleveland is one such attempt.
"What's at stake goes beyond the issue of gay marriage, it's whether or not a state constitutional amendment can strip Ohio people of basic protections," said Heather Sawyer, senior counsel in Chicago for Lambda Legal, a national gay rights organization.
The case is being watched nationally because of the precedent that could be set if the domestic violence charges are thrown out. Forte's lawyer argues his client cannot be charged with the felony because domestic violence charges should be reserved for married couples under the state's law defining marriage, which won 62 percent of the vote in November.