Civil rights attorneys filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a judge to strike down Ohio’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional and allow same-sex couples to wed in the state, echoing arguments that have led judges to throw out gay marriage bans in five other states.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Cincinnati on behalf of six gay Ohio couples who say they are in love and want to get married.
“We are just like any other couple,” said Gary Goodman, who proposed to his longtime partner, Karl Rece Jr., in 2011.
“We just want the simplest thing: We want to be able to marry here in Cincinnati, in the state of Ohio, and we want it to be something that we share with our friends and our family because it’s right” Goodman said.
Like other successful challenges to statewide marriage bans, the attorneys who filed the lawsuit are arguing Ohio’s ban, passed by voters in 2004, violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
“A consensus is finally emerging: the Constitution protects the right of consenting adults to love whoever they want,” the lawsuit says. “It is time for Ohio to do the same”
Lisa Peterson Hackley, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, said in a statement the office “is prepared to defend the state’s constitution and statutes regarding marriage”
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich declined to comment “except to say that the governor believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, and he supports Ohio’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage”
Along with Wednesday’s lawsuit, attorneys are asking federal Judge Michael Barrett to issue a temporary restraining order forcing Ohio to issue marriage licenses to the couples named in the lawsuit, record their marriages and grant them the same rights other married couples in the state have.
Hackley said the attorney general’s office will ask the court to deny any requests for immediate action “to maintain the status quo while the case is being litigated”
Wednesday’s lawsuit was filed by the same law firm that filed a February suit that led federal Judge Timothy Black to order Ohio to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.
In his April 14 order, Black said Ohio’s refusal to recognize gay marriage is a violation of constitutional rights and “unenforceable in all circumstances”
“The record before this court ... is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Black wrote.
His order stopped short of forcing Ohio to allow gay couples to wed in the state.
Although most of the ruling is on hold pending DeWine’s forthcoming appeal, Black did order Ohio to immediately recognize the marriages of the four couples by listing both spouses in each relationship on their children’s birth certificates.
In a similarly narrow order in December, Black ordered Ohio to recognize gay marriages on death certificates.