Federal judge weighing Ohio gay marriage fight

Residents' legal marriages in other states not recognized.
Associated Press
Dec 18, 2013

A federal judge on Wednesday questioned the constitutionality of Ohio's ban on gay marriage and whether state officials have the authority to refuse to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in other states.

Judge Timothy Black's comments came as he heard arguments in federal court in Cincinnati over whether gay marriage should be recognized on Ohio death certificates despite a statewide constitutional ban.

Although Black's decision, expected within two weeks, only will pertain to the recognition of gay marriage on Ohio death certificates, he noted that "in the real world out there, the stakes are larger," and that his upcoming ruling could serve as starting point for further litigation seeking gay marriage to be recognized in Ohio.

Black cited a prediction by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote in a strong dissenting opinion in June that "no one should be fooled" by the court majority's decision to strike down part of an anti-gay marriage law.

"It is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe (to drop)," Scalia wrote. "The majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition."

Said Black on Wednesday, "The shoe dropped and now it's here, and I'm required to follow the law of the United States Supreme Court."

"Politicians say, 'I'll leave this to the states,'" but if the United States Supreme Court said the federal government cannot fail to recognize valid same-sex marriages, why can the states?" Black asked Bridget Coontz, the state's attorney arguing against allowing gay couples' marriages to be recognized on Ohio death certificates.

Coontz pointed out that in the same Supreme Court decision, the justices found that states have the right to decide for themselves whether to recognize gay marriage and Ohio voters overwhelmingly decided in 2004 to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

"Ohio doesn't want Delaware or Maryland to define who is married under Ohio law," she said. "To allow that to happen would allow one state to set the marriage policy for all others."

Civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein argued to Black that the case "is about love surviving death" and that his clients, two recently widowed gay men, deserve to have their out-of-state marriages recognized on their deceased spouses' Ohio death certificates, and so does every other gay married couple in the state.

Black has previously sided with Gerhardstein in rulings limited solely to the two men, who both live in Cincinnati.

Black wrote that the surviving spouses deserved to be treated with respect and that Ohio law historically has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place, citing marriages between cousins and involving minors.

"How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?" Black wrote in August. "The short answer is that Ohio cannot."

The case has drawn attention in other states, including helping spark a similar but much broader lawsuit in Pennsylvania, which also does not permit gay marriage. Black's decision also has irritated some conservative groups and lawmakers in Ohio, with one Republican state legislator calling for Congress to impeach him.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

 

Comments

concernedtruth

If you approve of gay marriage I dis-approve of YOU. Gay marriage is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. No other way to look at it. Read your bible people. If I am wrong nothing happens to me when I die, but if you are wrong when you die where will you be going to the right (non-smoking) or to the left (smoking), I prefer the RIGHT and into the arms of my Saviour Jesus Christ!

KnuckleDragger

Apparently Judge black has not read the Supreme Court decision which threw the determination of whether a state would recognize or allow gay marriage back to them. In other words, its a states rights issue. Judge Black is just another one of those legislate from the bench liberals. Honestly, I could care less if they marry. Why should hetero couples be the only ones to experience the ups of marriage, and the downs of a messy divorce. Once they have to give up half of everything they've earned, and be forced to pay alimony to their partner for years, they will kick themselves for ever advocating marriage. LOL

Peninsula Pundit

Maybe we should encourage the state of Utah to endorse polygamy. Then, by the same reasoning, we all could have multiple wives!
Maybe we should get the state of West Virginia to endorse marrying family members!
Honestly and truthfully, what's to prevent NAMBLA from claiming the same right?
Someone who REALLY loves his dog?
Where does it end?
At the current rate, it won't.
Let's stop this travesty now before we have to deal with the rest perverts crawling out of the woodwork saying, 'Me, too!'