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January 10, 2014

Ohio must recognize marriages, judge rules

Cincinnati--Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled on January 23 that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriage performed in other jurisdictions, but only for the purposes of listing marital status on death certificates.

Black’s ruling echoes a temporary injunction he issued in July. It says that Ohio must recognize all out-of-state marriages for the purpose of death certificates.

Attorney General Mike DeWine has said that he will appeal to the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The case originally involved just John Arthur and his husband, James Obergefell. Arthur, who passed away in October, suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a rapidly-progressing degenerative muscular condition. The couple married in Maryland in July so that Arthur could be buried in a family plot left to Obergefell by his father, but to be interred in the plot, Arthur’s death certificate would need to list Obergefell as his surviving spouse.

The couple sued the state to ensure that the death certificate did just that, and Black issued a temporary injunction barring the state from issuing one without listing Arthur as married and Obergefell as his spouse.

Black later extended the injunction through the end of the year to give him a change to hear arguments and issue a final ruling.

A second couple was added to the suit along with Arthur and Obergefell’s funeral director.

Throughout the process, Black pointed out that Ohio recognizes opposite-sex marriages that could not be performed in the state, such as those in which the couple are first cousins or one of them is below Ohio’s age of consent, but of the age of consent in the state where they were married.

The two organizations working for the repeal of the 2004 state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage and civil unions responded immediately to Black’s ruling.

“While the question before the court was narrowly defined as to whether the state of Ohio can annul a legal marriage for the purposes of a death certificate, Judge Black made it clear that denying legally married couples equal protection under the law, whether they are gay or straight, is unconstitutional. We wholeheartedly agree,” said Michael Premo, campaign manager for Why Marriage Matters Ohio. “While we rejoice in this ruling, we are saddened that the state of Ohio would choose to compound the grief of surviving spouses by challenging the legality of their loving, committed unions.”

“We hope the day will soon come when every Ohioan and every American can be ensured of marriage equality and equal protection under our laws, and we will not stop fighting until that day comes,” he concluded.

“Freedom Ohio applauds Judge Black’s ruling today as yet another step in the right direction on the road to freedom for gay and lesbian couples throughout Ohio,” said the group’s executive director, Ian James. “As we expect Judge Black’s ruling to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Freedom Ohio will redouble its efforts to pass its clear, concise and constitutionally sound 46-word Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment next November.”










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