Federal Judge Issues Narrow Ruling Against Ohio's Gay Marriage Ban


Judge Timothy Black has ruled that Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but his ruling applies only to death certificates, the AP reports:

In his decision Monday, Judge Timothy Black orders state officials to recognize such unions on death certificates. Although his ruling applies narrowly, his statements about Ohio's gay-marriage ban are sweeping and expected to incite further litigation challenging the law.

In his lengthy decision, the Cincinnati-based judge says that "once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away."

He says the U.S. Constitution recognizes the right to remain married as a fundamental liberty.

The ruling was made on a case brought by John Arthur and Jim Obergfell. You may recall that they flew to Maryland earlier this year so they could marry on the airport tarmac before Arthur's ALS, a progressive neurological disease that robs patients of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe, became too difficult. The couple filed the lawsuit after they married.

Arthur died in October.

Chris Geidner explains the narrow ruling:

Black explained that the case was not about marriage, but rather about “the right to remain married”:

The right to remain married is therefore properly recognized as one that is a fundamental liberty interest appropriately protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Here, Ohio’s marriage recognition bans violate this fundamental right without rational justification.

In explaining the narrow scope of the case — which only sought a ruling regarding the treatment of death certificates in light of Ohio’s constitutional amendment and statute banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages — Black wrote:

The Court’s ruling today is a limited one, and states simply, that under the Constitution of the United States, Ohio must recognize valid out-of-state marriages  between same-sex couples on Ohio death certificates, just as Ohio recognizes all other out-of-state marriages, if valid in the state performed, and even if not authorized nor validly performed under Ohio law, such as marriages between first cousins, marriages of certain minors, and common law marriages. That is, once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away, because the right to remain married is properly recognized as a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.

Read the decision, AFTER THE JUMP...

1:13-cv-00501 #65 by Equality Case Files

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  1. Die Duck Filth!!!

    Posted by: litper | Dec 23, 2013 12:47:34 PM

  2. What is that sound we're hearing? It's the chip chip chipping away of the unconstitutional laws. The walls of inequality are crumbling as they were made of faulty material.

    Posted by: Lucca | Dec 23, 2013 12:53:12 PM

  3. The sky "is" falling.
    And it's wonderful.
    Stars all around!

    Posted by: woody | Dec 23, 2013 12:59:42 PM

  4. The headline is wrong. Judge Black didn't say anything about Ohio's constitutional ban against marriage in the state itself. However, this gives us more ammunition to, at the very least, force Ohio to recognize all out-of-state marriages in Ohio, which would effectively legalize same-sex marriage in the state!

    Chip chip chip, these red states don't know what hit them!

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 23, 2013 1:05:13 PM

  5. This narrow ruling is huge. Even with restriction to death certificates only in this case,which was for burial, the ruling neonetheless underscores, rightfully, that Ohio (or any other state) cannot take away the status of legal marriages performed in other states.
    Many states made not recognizing out of state same sex marriages a integral part of their marriage bans between 2000 & 2012.
    This ruling is the first to clarify that states have no right to invalidate legal out of state same sex marriages.

    Judge Black knows what he's doing.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 23, 2013 1:21:36 PM

  6. If you think civil rights are great when you are dead, just imagine having them when you are alive.

    Posted by: Nigel | Dec 23, 2013 1:30:23 PM

  7. "Although Section 2 of DOMA is not specifically before this Court, the implications of today’s ruling speak for themselves."

    You gotta love footnotes. :)

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 23, 2013 1:43:08 PM

  8. Article IV, Section 1 of the US Constitution says, "Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof." This is the reason why a marriage enacted in one state is valid in all states.

    I am surprised that Due Process was the basis of this ruling, and not the Full Faith and Credit clause. I'm not sure if the FFCC has ever (yet) been ruled on with regards to marriage equality.

    Posted by: Gregory In Seattle | Dec 23, 2013 2:12:48 PM

  9. I am also loving the use of underline.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 23, 2013 2:33:37 PM

  10. More footnote:
    "although the question of whether Ohio’s refusal to grant same-sex marriages also violates Ohio same-sex couples’ right to due process and equal protection is not before the Court in this case, the logical conclusion to be drawn from the evidence, arguments, and law presented here is that Ohio’s violation of the constitutional rights of its gay citizens extends beyond the bounds of this lawsuit."

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 23, 2013 2:36:51 PM

  11. The ruling is NOT as narrow as your first sentence says, that is, the ruling is NOT limited to death certificates. If you read the actual findings of the Judge at the end of his Opinion, Finding #1 under "Conclusions" says that Ohio cannot refuse to recognize validly-conducted out-of-state same-sex marriages: "The Court finds and declares that Article 15, Section 11, of the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code Section 3101.01(C), violate rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in that same-sex couples married in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is lawful, who seek to have their out-of-state marriage recognized and accepted as legal in Ohio, are denied their fundamental right to marriage recognition without due process of law; and are denied their fundamental right to equal protection of the laws when Ohio does recognize comparable heterosexual marriages from other jurisdictions, even if obtained to circumvent Ohio law."

    The Judge did NOT issue an injunction against the general enforcement of the Ohio ban for everyone (see Finding #2 under his Conclusions) -- he ordered only the death certificates of the two couples before him to reflect that they are validly married. So, in that sense, the injunctive relief was narrow. BUT NO DOUBT, the Judge ruled that the Ohio law against recognizing valid out-of-state same-sex marriages is unconstitutional (for everyone, not just the two couples).

    Posted by: MiddleoftheRoader | Dec 23, 2013 2:51:25 PM

  12. 'Just as Justice Scalia predicted in his animated dissent, by virtue of the present lawsuit, “the state-law shoe” has now dropped in Ohio.'

    Just like Shelby, Justice Black delivers some backhand Scalia smackdown.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 23, 2013 3:13:35 PM

  13. If you look through the details, not only did Judge Black effectively say Ohio's ban on recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, but so is disallowing marriage equality in general. He basically said Ohio's current laws on this issue are based on moral disapproval which isn't a valid reason to deny marriage to same-sex couples.

    The actual effect of the ruling is narrow but the reasoning behind it is strong. Ohio is appealing this ruling to the 6th Circuit.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 23, 2013 3:46:31 PM

  14. This is a house of cards ruling. He pulled a card from the bottom with what looks like a restricted law suit but worded his ruling so that it affects all the SS marriage prohibitions in Ohio. They're all going to tumble.

    If Ohio must recognize out-of-state SS marriages on death certificates then they have to be recognized in all aspects of civil law. How can they not? You're not just suddenly legally married at death without having been legally married in life.

    In a broader vein he cited Windsor ruling on all marriage laws have to be within constitutional guarantees and also cited recent Utah & NM Court decisions that state bans on SSM are unconstitutional.

    Gotta think that he knew this full well. Make what appears to be a restricted ruling while knowing it is going to affect all the SSM laws in Ohio.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 23, 2013 6:31:47 PM

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