DOMA | Gay Marriage | Gay Rights | Maryland | Ohio

Ohio Must Recognize Gay Couple's Marriage, Federal Judge Rules: VIDEO


John Arthur and Jim Obergefell, the gay Ohio couple who last Friday filed a federal suit challenging Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage, must be legally recognized as a married couple in the state of Ohio, according to federal judge Timothy Black. Arthur and Obergefell married on a tarmac in Baltimore after they chartered a plane to Maryland especially equipped with medical staff to attend to Arthur who is terminally ill and suffering from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Arthur, who as Judge Black put it, "is certain to die soon" wanted to be recognized as married in his home state when he dies. It appears he will get his wish. BuzzFeed reports:

"The end result here and now is that the local Ohio Registrar of death certificates is hereby ORDERED not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as ‘married’ and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse,’” Judge Timothy Black wrote in granting the couple a temporary restraining order Monday. The order is in effect until 5 p.m. Aug. 5, unless the court extends the order at a later date.

“By treating lawful same sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sex marriages,” the judge concluded, Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages and Ohio’s statute addressing the same issue “likely violate[s] the United States Constitution.”

In his decision, Black cited not only the recent landmark case, United States v. Windsor that effectively struck down DOMA, but also the 1996 Romer v. Evans case, both cases in which Justice Anthony Kennedy gave the majority opinion. Judge Black wrote,

“Although the law has long recognized that marriage and domestic relations are matters generally left to the states, the restrictions imposed on marriage by states, however, must nonetheless comply with the [U.S.] Constitution...The purpose served by treating same-sex married couples differently than opposite-sex married couples is the same improper purpose that failed in Windsor and in Romer: ‘to impose inequality’ and to make gay citizens unequal under the law.”

The suit, filed against Governor John Kasich and defended by Attorney General Mike DeWine, was nonetheless not defended by the vital statistics registrar for the city of Cincinnati, Dr. Camille Jones. In a filing presented to the court, Dr. Jones stated,

Plane“The City will not defend Ohio’s discriminatory ban on same-sex marriages,but the City’s vital statistics registrar is bound to follow Ohio law until that law is changed or overturned.”

Rob Nichols, spokesman for Governor Kasich, in response to the ruling told BuzzFeed: “We don’t comment on pending litigation other than to say the that the governor believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Many have already begun to speculate on the implications of this ruling for Ohio and the nation at large.

Watch a video of a local news report from WKEF and WRGT, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Very good. All lgbt in love and living in Ohio, get married!

    Posted by: Matt26 | Jul 23, 2013 9:13:05 AM

  2. The judge's ruling applies only to these two men. (But it's a start...)

    Posted by: BZ | Jul 23, 2013 9:18:20 AM

  3. Thank you John and Jim. You guys rock.

    Posted by: Joe Lacey | Jul 23, 2013 9:23:20 AM

  4. And so does Judge Black.

    Posted by: Joe Lacey | Jul 23, 2013 9:23:59 AM

  5. This is the most telling part of this story: “The City will not defend Ohio’s discriminatory ban on same-sex marriages." The City of CINCINNATI. A place so conservative that it has a Ronald Reagan Highway and is called Censornati (cf. Mapplethorpe controversy) for a good reason. When the Queen City with all of its right-wing history refuses to defend this discrimination, we are sitting pretty, my friends.

    Posted by: Bollux | Jul 23, 2013 9:47:42 AM

  6. How is it that any Straight (i.e. heterosexual) couple in any state can fly off to Las Vegas for a drunken weekend, gets married by an Elvis impersonator, their marriage is automatically honored in all 50 states, and no one gives it a second thought ... but if THIS couple gets legally married in Maryland, the State of Ohio refuses to recognize their marriage when they come home? How can anyone not appreciate the love and commitment this couple has? In the name of all that is good and decent, why would any Straight person want to deny them the same legal benefits he or she takes for granted?

    Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz | Jul 23, 2013 10:01:43 AM

  7. @Chuck How? It is called the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution. It forces the states to respect each other's laws. It is why first cousins who marry in Rhode Island can move to Ohio and still have a valid marriage even though Ohio bans such a union. We would have fifty self-contained autonomous little countries warring all the time over everything without this clause.

    Posted by: Bollux | Jul 23, 2013 10:10:28 AM

  8. The good news just keeps on coming! Reading about victories like these are a great way to start my day...

    My THANKS and congratulations to John Arthur and Jim Obergefell on a victory for us all.

    Does this set a legal precedent for anyone married in another state because their home state doesn't have marriage equality?

    Posted by: fanboi | Jul 23, 2013 10:10:49 AM

  9. Cincinnati's culture may be conservative, but the city has been Democratic controlled since the 80's I believe. So Cincinnati probably isn't as conservative as it's believed to be.

    The ruling is narrow and it's limited in terms of the fact it's a temporary restraining order, until August 5th. It probably won't do much nationally but for Ohio same-sex couples, if they marry out of state, they can petition to have their marriages recognized in Ohio, based on this ruling. Other states that recognize valid marriages (that may or may not be legal in their own state) such as first cousins from other states but refuse to recognize same-sex marriages are blatantly discriminating. The ruling will be appealed by Ohio's AG/Governor Kasich, and we'll see where it goes from here.

    It's not a huge decision on a national scale or necessarily in changing Ohio's marriage laws, but it is a big decision for these two gentlemen and I am very happy for them.

    Posted by: Francis #1 | Jul 23, 2013 10:16:46 AM

  10. Wait- although the ruling has specific plaintiffs, does that apply to the rest of us lgbt couples in Ohio who have already gotten married in other states???

    Posted by: Alex | Jul 23, 2013 10:19:02 AM

  11. Not this case, Alex, unfortunately. Only applies to Mr. Arthur and Mr. Obergefell. Hopefully depending where this case goes from here, at the very least, couples who marry out of state will be recognized as married in the state of Ohio.

    Posted by: Francis #1 | Jul 23, 2013 10:50:14 AM

  12. @BOLLUX I don't think first cousins married in one state are necessarily married in another state. Do we have a lawyer here who could clarify this?

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 23, 2013 10:53:46 AM

  13. @MIKE If I recall my statement above correctly I said Ohio recognizes first cousin marriages from states that allow them such as Rhode Island. Whatever you think I said or implied otherwise is irrelevant. You are more than welcome to research further and report back to the class.

    Posted by: Bollux | Jul 23, 2013 11:17:52 AM

  14. Let's also recognize the sacrifice being made here. This couple is spending their last few days together fighting for this simple recognition as a married couple. It is so very sad that there is no happy outcome here. The court order is to define the language used on the death certificate and it is due to expire on August 5th because all involved believe he will have died by then. It reminds me that heroes walk among us and each person who stands up for their rights moves us all a step forward.

    It shows the true idiocy of the various anti-equality marriage laws and it will be used as an example in many of the battles to come.

    Posted by: MikeBoston | Jul 23, 2013 11:28:45 AM

  15. Down with DOMA Section 2!

    Posted by: DetroitGuy76 | Jul 23, 2013 11:30:52 AM

  16. This ruling is for Jim & John's case only and I suspect it was issued immediately because of John's health problems and burial.

    The larger issue Judge Black's language speaks to is that of state bans of SSM as unconstitutional.

    'Although the law has long recognized that marriage and domestic relations are matters generally left to the states, the restrictions imposed on marriage by states, however, must nonetheless comply with the [U.S.] Constitution.'
    Can't get much more definitive than that.

    Thank you Judge Black. For John & Jim. And for speaking plainly to equality.

    Posted by: JONES | Jul 23, 2013 11:31:17 AM

  17. I actually fought back some tears on this one. I'm very happy that these two people will at least get to enjoy some days together as a happily married couple in their home state.

    Posted by: Ryan | Jul 23, 2013 11:36:58 AM

  18. Even if the ruling only applies to this couple, it carries weight going forward on a variety of important levels. And what better couple than Jim and John to show how high the stakes can be and why marriage matters? Their story, because it's so stark, should resonate with any marginally fair-minded person, who would have to agree that it would be cruel and ridiculous for them to be treated as legal strangers in Ohio. They've done other couples a great service by putting themselves in the spotlight.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jul 23, 2013 11:41:09 AM

  19. The Full Faith and Credit Clause is not a basis for all 50 states recognizing any particular marriage in any particular jurisdiction. No court has ever said that the FFC applies in that way. It just has never been challenged and is generally believed to be the basis for such recognition. States are free to recognize marriages in other states without a law forcing them to and most do (hence the FFC never being used to challenge where it has not been allowed).

    A state is not required to recognize a marriage in another state under FFC where it has a strong public policy against said marriage. An example is the first cousin marriage. If a state has explicitly outlawed that, it is not going to be forced to recognize the marriage from another state that is contrary to its own public policy.

    I'm sorry, but chances are strong FFC could not be used to force Virginia to recognize a gay marriage in DC or Maryland because Virginia has explicitly defined marriage and has a strong record of policy favoring that particular definition. Also, marriage is not literally a public act, record, or judicial proceeding.

    During the era of miscegenation laws, states actively refused to recognize interracial marriage performed in states where it was legal. No challenge under FFC was ever brought. There is no historical basis to say FFC forces states to recognize marriages from other states. Most do as a matter of convention, but it isn't because of FFC.

    Posted by: Fancy | Jul 23, 2013 1:18:48 PM

  20. And I should point out that Section 2 of DOMA was intended to reinforce this notion that FFC does not apply to marriages. Though the mere passage of it shows that Congress wasn't so certain FFC wouldn't be a basis for forcing recognition of out of state marriages. My personal legal opinion is that Section 2 is mostly superfluous in that if a state already bans same sex marriage, it has shown it has a strong public policy against gay marriage and could not be forced under FFC to recognize one from another state. Overturning Section 2 doesn't change that. The only way to force one state to recognize a marriage from another state is if the public policy reasons fall on some other constitutional grounds (violation of a fundamental right, equal protection, etc.).

    Posted by: Fancy | Jul 23, 2013 1:22:30 PM

  21. Good for John and Jim! Not only does the contemptible state law fail to respect the rights of ALL human beings. (It was designed by a few bigoted idiots to do EXACTLY that!) This disgraceful law is not only the SHAME of the people of Ohio, it IS unconstitutional in light of the latest Supreme Court ruling, (United States vs Windsor), as it treats same sex marriages DIFFERENTLY than opposite sex marriages. This CLEARLY VIOLATES the Constitution of the United States!

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 23, 2013 1:53:52 PM

  22. On the subject of how "first cousin marriage" is treated among the states, the reason against such marriages is not based on outright discrimination, but rather on how states view the scientific data of genetics. This reason is clear in states like Maine, where they allow cousin marriage, but only after a couple has submitted to genetic counseling. Similarly, some states allow cousin marriage (e.g. Wisconsin, Illinois), but only if a couple can prove they can't procreate (e.g. via medical procedure or the female is over age 55). So prohibitions against cousin marriage are basically just an extension of the universal prohibition on close blood relations not marrying. The 50 states just disagree on where to draw the line on this prohibition. IOW, it's not the same as outright discrimination based on race (like the previous bans on interracial marriage) and/or gender (today's bans on same-sex marriage).

    Posted by: Rexford | Jul 23, 2013 3:46:19 PM

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