COLUMBUS — The federal and California bans on same-sex marriage are dead, but Ohio’s ban stands.
Nothing in the pair of rulings issued on Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court would require Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages sanctioned elsewhere, although a petition effort continues to try to change that.
“We’re elated the Supreme Court has repealed [the federal Defense of Marriage Act] and rejected [California’s] Prop 8,” said Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, the group trying to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2014.
“This is proof that the tide of acceptance for all couples is turning in this country,” he said. “These are two more important steps toward true equality. It’s important to remember this moment does not change the reality that Ohio still won’t recognize same-gender marriage. Only Ohio can address the civil rights issue of this generation.”
But backers of Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state also found something to cheer in both decisions.
“This is a win for states’ rights,” said Charles Tassell, assistant to the president of Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, the organization that spearheaded Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment.
“Justice Roberts makes the comment specifically in the Prop 8 decision, that this is going to be an ongoing debate for states,” he said. “Justice Kennedy references it in DOMA, saying that marriage and domestic issues have been the proper right of states. So this will be an ongoing discussion, and we’re happy to participate in that.”
As voters re-elected President George W. Bush in 2004, Ohio amended its constitution to prohibit Ohio from recognizing same-sex marriages recognized in other states and barring government from offering benefits to same-sex and unmarried couples that approximate those of legally married couples.
The high court struck down California’s Proposition 8, through which voters enacted their own ban on same-sex marriage and rejected a court decision to the contrary. But the justices threw out the case on a legal technicality without addressing the heart of the issue, leaving in place a lower court ruling that invalidated the state constitutional amendment.
The ruling that struck down DOMA affects access to federal recognition of same-sex marriages now legally sanctioned by 12 states and the District of Columbia. It does not force a state like Ohio to accept those marriages as well.
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