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Topics In the News
 
Judge to Rule that Ohio Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriages Performed Elsewhere
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/07/14
Last updated on: 04/07/14
 
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Judge Black.

On April 4, 2014, Judge Timothy Black announced that he will issue a ruling within 10 days declaring Ohio's ban on recognition of same-sex marriages unconstitutional. Judge Timothy Black made the announcement at the conclusion of a hearing in a lawsuit brought by three married lesbian couples expecting to give birth soon and a gay male couple seeking to adopt.

The suit, Henry v. Wymyslo, seeks a court order to force the state to put the names of both parents on the birth certificates of their children-to-be. The plaintiff's attorney Al Gerhardstein asked Black to declare Ohio's gay marriage ban unconstitutional and that the state be required to recognize legal marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

As Chris Johnson reported in the Washington Blade, the Court docket says "A written decision will be issued on or before 4/14/14. The Court anticipates striking down as unconstitutional under all circumstances Ohio's bans on recognizing legal same-sex marriages from other states."

Christine Link of the ACLU of Ohio praised Black for making the announcement, saying it "represents another step forward in the march toward full LGBT equality in Ohio."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that he will appeal the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a decision issued on December 23, 2013, Judge Black found the state's ban on the recognition of same-sex marriages unconstitutional insofar as it prohibited the state from issuing death certificates that acknowledge legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

In issuing a permanent order requiring the state to permit death certificates to include information about same-sex spouses, Black cited the Supreme Court's June decision in Windsor v. U.S. that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

"[T]he question presented," Black wrote in the death certificate case, "is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot--i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples . . . simply because the majority of the voters don't like homosexuality (or at least didn't in 2004). Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no."

In that decision, Black wrote that "once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away." He said the right to remain married is recognized as a fundamental liberty in the U.S. Constitution.

Black ordered the state not only to recognize the marriages of the two men who filed the lawsuit on their respective spouses' death certificate but also to communicate his orders to anyone in the state involved in completing death certificates.

He also questioned whether the state constitutional amendment furthered any legitimate interest, noting that "the fact that a form of discrimination has been 'traditional' is a reason to be more skeptical of its rationality."

He added, "No hypothetical justification can overcome the clear primary purpose and practical effect of the marriage bans . . . to disparage and demean the dignity of same-sex couples in the eyes of the state and the wider community."

The case arose from the dramatic story of John Arthur and Jim Obergefell's marriage in July 2013. Obergefell and his terminally ill partner Arthur traveled at great expense and inconvenience via air ambulance from Cincinnati to be married in Maryland on July 11, but when returned to their home, Ohio refused to recognize their legal marriage.

Thus, on July 19, the couple filed suit in federal court asking that the state of Ohio be compelled to acknowledge their marriage. In particular, the lawsuit requested that the Ohio Registrar of death certificates be required to record Arthur's status at death as "married" and Obergefell be listed as his "surviving spouse."

On July 23, Judge Black issued a temporary restraining order against the state of Ohio that granted the request of the couple in regard to the death certificate. Subsequently, another surviving spouse and a funeral director were allowed to join the suit.

John Arthur died on October 22, 2013. His death certificate listed Jim Obergefell as his surviving spouse.

Below is a video reporting on Judge Black's announcement of April 4, 2014.

 
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