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Lower federal courts are continuing to enable same-gender marriages

The ban against same-gender marriages in Oregon was overturned on May 19, 2014. As soon as U.S. District Judge Michael McShane announced that he would rule on the Oregon law banning same-gender marriages, same-gender couples began lining up outside the Multnomah County Building to apply for marriage licenses if McShane ruled that the ban was illegal.

Michigan couple married same day as ban is struck down
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

McShane revealed the logic of his decision in the following statement.

Because Oregon's marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest , the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Since the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in 2013 regarding same-gender marriage, seven lower federal courts have ruled that state laws prohibiting same-gender marriages violate those couples’ constitutional rights. What SCOTUS could not bring itself to do, the lower federal courts have done. Same-gender marriages will be formally legalized just as mixed racial marriages became legalized.

Deanna Geiger, 55, and her partner, Janine Nelson, 53, filed suit in October, 2013 seeking to get the Oregon law overturned that banned same-gender marriages. Geiger and Nelson had been married in 2004, but a state referendum formally defined marriage as solely between one man and one woman. Their marriage was ruled invalid after the state referendum passed. Geiger and Nelson were the first people married in Multnomah county after the new ruling was announced.

A similar law was enacted in Ohio in 2004 in a statewide referendum called Issue I. A federal district judge ruled in 2014 that Ohio must recognize same-gender marriages for those legally married in states that allow same-gender marriages. This ruling has been stayed except for three couples directly involved in the lawsuit against Ohio while Ohio's attorney general appeals the decision. There is another lawsuit seeking to overturn the state referendum that would allow same-gender marriages in Ohio. The Oregon attorney general refused to defend the ban on same-gender marriages before the federal district court.

In Ohio, couples in same-gender marriages are protected under federal law, but not at the state level for such issues as hospital visitations, funeral planning, and other special marriage rules that are stipulated to apply only to marriages with one male and one female. That is about to change.

You can read more about the status of legal challenges throughout the US to restrictions on same-gender marriages. This was compiled by the Freedom to Marry organization. There are currently 73 lawsuits in 32 states awaiting rulings. The 2013 decision by SCOTUS in the case of United States versus Windsor has dramatically reduced the restrictions on same-gender marriages by the lower federal courts.

The spiritualist churches typically support marriage equality through performance of commitment ceremonies as well as traditional marriage ceremonies. When Ohio’s Issue I is overturned, same-gender marriages will have the same legal status as any other marriage. Some churches will refuse to perform these ceremonies due to religious dogma.

The expectation by spiritualist churches are that marriage will be treated as a sacred vow between two individuals whatever their genders. It is the love that counts when it comes to marriage, not the genders of the participants.

There are many alternative churches in Columbus that will perform commitment ceremonies now, and provide same-gender weddings when they become legal in Ohio. You can use a search engine with "spiritualist churches in Columbus OH" to find a listing of several churches in the area that are generally supportive of same-gender relationships.

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