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Marriage equality Ohio: Out-of-state gay marriages must be recognized

It was a victory for gay marriage in the state of Ohio on Monday. According to a report by the Associated Press on April 14, judge Timothy Black made true to his previous promise and ordered Ohio authorities to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Judge Timothy Black announced his intentions in federal court in Cincinnati following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban. Black said he'll issue the ruling April 14.
(Photo : Courtesy Reuters used with permission)

The anticipated ruling is the latest victory for gay rights supporters as Black stated that Ohio’s marriage recognition is not only “unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances”, but also the court’s responsibility to make sure the state is compliant under the full understanding of the constitutional measures. Black announced his anticipated ruling verbally 10 days ago and further defined his ruling with a written order.

“It is this court’s responsibility to give meaning and effect to the guarantees and of the U.S. Constitution and all American citizens and that responsibility is never more pressing than when the fundamental rights of some minority citizens are impacted by the legislative power of the majority.”

The order has not impact on Ohio’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but it has definitely made some conservatives uneasy about where this order may lead eventually. Just last week Republican Rep. John Becker reinforced his initial call for Black’s impeachment. He stated that Black has allowed “personal political bias to supersede jurisprudence.”

Black, in anticipation of an appeal, has put a hold on his order and is deciding whether to issue a stay of his ruling pending the state’s appeal. He hopes to make his decision no later than Tuesday after both sides present arguments for and against the issue in the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

By declining the stay of his broader ruling, gay couples in Ohio would be granted the same benefits as heterosexual couples in the state. These rights would include property rights and the right to make some healthcare related decision for their partner. But, according to Black, he is leaning more towards a stay of the broader ruling, except for the portion that applies to the four couples who filed the lawsuit in February that led to the court case. That portion forces the state of Ohio to recognize their out-of-state marriages as well as allow the to list both spouses as parents on their children’s birth certificates.

In the meantime, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has certified a change in the language of a new Ohio gay marriage ballot. The updated amendment will include language that will require the state to treat all legally valid marriages equally under the law. DeWine’s decision is not connected to judge Black’s decision on Monday.