By Jackie Borchardt
A new Ohio law expands civil protection orders to dating partners, bringing Ohio in line with every other state except Georgia.
Ohio law previously allowed spouses, cohabitants and parents to seek protection orders but excluded people who weren't living together. House Bill 1, signed Thursday by Gov. John Kasich, expands the court orders to dating partners. It takes effect in early July.
The bill, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Emilia Sykes and Republican Rep. Nathan Manning, unanimously passed the Ohio House last year and cleared the Senate earlier this month. Sykes said the new law ensures dating partners statewide have an avenue to obtaining a protection order. Under previous Ohio law, some domestic relations courts granted protection orders to dating partners, but not all.
Sykes said there's a misconception that protection orders are ineffective, in part because most people only hear about them when they don't work.
"Protection orders are a very good and effective early intervention in domestic violence," Sykes, an Akron Democrat, said in an interview. "They provide an opportunity to intervene into this relationship using the courts, using the authority of the law to say you need to remove yourself from this situation and stay away from this victim."
Sykes said the bill also modernizes Ohio law to reflect changes in relationship patterns. Domestic violence is more common among 18- to 24-year-olds, she said, who may not be living together.
One in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience extreme physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At a public bill signing Thursday night, Kasich said he was praying for victims of domestic violence but House Bill 1 is more than thoughts and prayers, it is action. Kasich said the next step was a state law prohibiting people under domestic violence protection orders from buying or possessing firearms.
"That should be a gimmee. That should be a lay-down hand," Kasich said.
Such a law was one of six recommendations made by Kasich's bipartisan gun policy group. Democrats have introduced legislation that has gone nowhere at the GOP-controlled Statehouse. A Republican-backed bill proposing all of Kasich's gun policy recommendations was introduced Thursday.
Kasich has touted bipartisanship on the national stage since failing to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016. On Thursday, he urged Democrats to ask him for help if they have bills that are "really critical."
"We need to come together to make sure the folks of the state are served," Kasich said.
The bill's supporters say the new law is an important step, but there are still concerns it won't be implemented uniformly across Ohio's 88 counties.
Victims will have to prove in court they have a dating relationship. The law broadly defines that relationship, leaving domestic relations court judges to make that determination.
Nancy Neylon, executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, said it might not be easy for a victim to appear in court and describe the relationship.
"You may have to talk about your sexual relationship. You may have the respondent denying the relationship," Neylon said. "That's going to be tricky. There are judges who still don't want to give protection orders for married people in this state."
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