Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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U.S. judge orders Ohio to honor 4 marriages


Federal Judge Timothy Black


COLUMBUS — A federal ruling forcing Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states will remain on hold while the state appeals the decision.

But U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Wednesday refused to delay the application of his ruling specifically for the four legally married same-sex couples who sued. He ordered the state to issue birth certificates to them with the names of both spouses’ listed for children born or expected to be born soon.

“We believe a stay was appropriate,” said Dan Tierney, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It allows us to proceed with our appeal to the 6th Circuit.”

Judge Black, a Democrat appointed by President Obama in 2010, agreed with the state that most decisions overturning all or part of states’ bans on same-sex marriage have been stayed pending the outcome of appeals. The issue is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

“… the Court acknowledges that recognition of same-sex marriages is a hotly contested issue in the contemporary legal landscape, and, if [the state’s] appeal is ultimately successful, the absence of a stay as to this Court’s ruling of facial unconstitutionality is likely to lead to confusion, potential inequity, and high costs. …,” he wrote.

But the same argument does not apply to the three female couples and one male couple who were legally wed in California, New York, and Massachusetts who seek recognition on birth certificates. The first three involved artificial insemination from anonymous donors, while the fourth involved the adoption of a child born in Ohio.

The couples, he wrote, “have demonstrated that a stay will irreparably harm them individually due to the imminent births of their children and other time-sensitive concerns. ... ”

Judge Black did not wholly overturn Ohio’s voter-approved ban in its state constitution requiring that marriage be between a man and a woman. But his ruling undermined a second portion of the 2004 constitutional amendment that bars Ohio and local government from extending rights approximating those of marriage to same-sex or unmarried couples.

The Cincinnati-based U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing Judge Black’s ruling that required the state to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates.

Attorneys for the couples argued that the entire original order should have been allowed to take effect.

“[The state] has provided no basis on which to distinguish Ohio‘s marriage bans from the many others that have now been found unconstitutional,” they wrote. “Indeed, the arguments proffered by [the state] as rational bases justifying Ohio‘s unequal treatment of same-sex spouses are the same justifications that have been thoroughly and consistently discredited by courts across the country, including now in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan.”

The U.S. Supreme Court left open the question of state-level bans even as it stuck down the federal portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Contact Jim Provance at: or 614-221-0496.

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