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April 6. 2012

Marriage is banned, but Ohio judge divorces men

Columbus--A judge who handles alternative resolutions to disputes granted two gay men a divorce in mid-March, seeing an apparent gap in the state’s same-sex marriage ban amendment.

The men, Jonathan Baize and Stephen Wissman, were married in New York in September, and later decided to divorce.

Baize’s attorney, Thomas J. Addesa, said that Judge Donald Cox granted the divorce after a perfunctory ten-minute hearing.

While the 2004 amendment to the Ohio constitution defines marriage as an opposite-sex institution, Adessa told the Columbus Dispatch that it does not mention divorce.

Apparently Cox, a former Cuyahoga County judge, agreed. Appointed by the court in Columbus, he has been assigned cases in 25 counties across the state and handles around a thousand divorces a year.

Anti-gay groups filed a brief urging Cox not to grant the divorce, citing the amendment. According to their argument, granting the divorce would indicate governmental recognition of Baize and Wissman’s marriage, which would contravene the marriage ban amendment.

David Langdon, the attorney for the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, called Cox a “rogue judge” who ignored the state constitution to grant the divorce, although the men noted that they did not want recognition that they were married, they wanted a judicial document saying that they were not married.

Langdon co-wrote the Ohio marriage ban amendment, which his group campaigned to pass. Most of the group’s funding, however, came from Citizens for Community Values, an anti-gay organization in suburban Cincinnati run by Phil Burress. The money routing kept the campaign’s individual donors secret, since CCV did not have the same reporting requirements as the campaign group.

Much of CCV’s current activities center around serving as an Ohio mouthpiece for the American Family Association, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.

Both the AFA and FRC are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their use of factually questionable propaganda to further their anti-gay stances.

Of the $1,194,808 OCPM reported, $1.18 million was donated by CCV, while Focus on the Family chipped in $1,101. CCV made a total of 20 donations, ranging from $13 to $600,000 from October 5, 2004 to December 31, 2004, according to the website FollowTheMoney.org.

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