Court Rules Against Ohio Ban on Same-sex Marriage Recognition

A federal judge has ordered Ohio to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

A federal judge in Ohio on Monday ruled against the state law barring recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, although the order is temporarily stayed until state officials take further action.

In a 45-page decision, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black determined the Ohio law barring recognition of out-of-state same-sex weddings violates protections under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The record before the court, which includes the judicially-noticed record in Obergefell, is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and, therefore, Ohio’s marriage recognition bans are facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances,” Black writes.

Black’s ruling against the state’s ban on recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages was expected because the court announced at the end of arguments on April 4 that a ruling against the ban would likely happen. However, the ruling doesn’t allow same-sex couples to wed in Ohio.

The case, Henry v. Hines, was filed by private attorneys on behalf of four same-sex couples in Ohio who adopted children or are awaiting children and are seeking to have both parents’ names appear on their children’s birth certificates.

The Ohio marriage amendment, which was ratified by state voters in 2004 by a 62 percent vote, bars that action from plaintiffs because it not only bans same-sex marriages, but recognition of same-sex unions performed elsewhere.

In his decision, Black invokes language in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, saying the court’s responsibility to provide protections under the U.S. Constitution “is never more pressing than when the fundamental rights of some minority of citizens are impacted by the legislative power of the majority.”

“When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same-sex couple married in another jurisdiction by refusing to recognize the marriage, that state unlawfully intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court,” Black writes.

The ruling was handed down by the same judge who determined in the case of Obergefell v. Wymyslo that Ohio must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages for the purposes of death certificates.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, praised the decision as another step forward in achieving nationwide marriage equality.

“Couples who are married should be treated as married no matter where they are in the country, including Ohio,” Wolfson said. “Couples should not have to play ‘now you’re married, now you’re not’ as they travel, work, move or return home. This is a good day for families and businesses in Ohio, and a good day for the Constitution and America.”

Now that Black has handed down the decision, state officials in Ohio — Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine — are expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rob Nichols, a Kasich spokesperson, said the governor is behind efforts of the attorney general to appeal the decision.

“The governor believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, he supports Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and we’re glad the Attorney General is appealing the ruling,” Nichols said.

Despite the order, Black has stayed his ruling until officials have announced whether they’ll independently seek a stay of the decision. The deadline for them to file a request for a stay is 3 p.m. tomorrow.

Further, Black writes he’s inclined to grant a stay for the order on the entire state, but not for the same-sex couples involved in the lawsuit.

“The Court is inclined to stay its finding of facial unconstitutionality but not to stay the Orders as to the as-applied claims of the four couples who are Plaintiffs because they have demonstrated that a stay will harm them individually due to the imminent births of their children and other time-sensitive concerns,” Black writes. “The Court inclines toward a finding that the issuance of correct birth certificates for Plaintiffs’ children, due in June or earlier, should not be stayed.”

The Sixth Circuit already had the distinction of being the only federal appeals court where each of the four states within the circuit — Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky — has a marriage equality case on appeal.