Since our last blog on this subject, much has happened in Ohio and elsewhere. There have been two important Ohio court decisions and a plethora of rulings in other states. The trend is clear: Restrictions on same sex marriages are about to be relegated to “the ash heap of history”, to quote one federal judge.
In Ohio there have been two significant cases, both in front of Judge Black in the federal court in Cincinnati:
- Obergefell v. Wysmyslo (opinion dated December 23, 2013), and
- Henry v. Himes (opinion dated April 14, 2014).
Here is what Judge Black ruled in these two cases:
- Obergefell held that Ohio must recognize valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples on Ohio death certificates, just as Ohio recognizes all other valid out-of-state marriages.
- Henry held that Ohio cannot prevent same-sex married couples from being designated as parents on their children’s birth certificate. In so holding, Judge Black found Ohio’s restrictions on the recognition of same-sex marriages unconstitutional in violation of both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
Please note that both cases involve ONLY the rights of gay couples to get married out-of-state and then have their marriages fully recognized in the State of Ohio. They do not take the next step, which is to set aside Ohio’s ban on gay marriage – but, “the handwriting is on the wall”.
Both cases have been appealed by the State of Ohio to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Judicial Circuit. It may take a full year for a ruling by that court. In the meantime, except as to a few individuals, Judge Black’s ruling has been “stayed”.
The practical effect of this chain of events is—until the Sixth Circuit issues its ruling—IF a couple desires to have their out-of-state marriage legally recognized in Ohio, they are encouraged to hire a lawyer. Doing so may enable couples with a compelling reason (such as adoption purposes, for example) to obtain a court order from a federal district judge.
Readers should also be aware that it is generally understood among lawyers that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, on the whole, is quite conservative. Therefore, while the arguments in support of gay marriage are very strong, no one should assume in advance that the Court of Appeals will simply “affirm” what Judge Black had to say on the subject.