A federal judge granted an Ohio couple a temporary restraining order on Monday, blocking the state from imposing its constitutional marriage ban against same-sex unions. The couple, recently married legally in Maryland, wants Ohio to recognize their marriage as one of the husbands is in failing health with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and is pushing for his surviving spouse to be listed on the death certificate.
Though a 2004 amendment to Ohio’s constitution prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriage or any same-sex union, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black, an Obama appointee, wrote that treating lawful same-sex marriages including that of plaintiffs John Arthur and James Obergefell differently likely violates the U.S. Constitution.
This is not a complicated case. The issue is whether the State of Ohio can discriminate against same sex marriages lawfully solemnized out of state, when Ohio law has historically and unambiguously provided that the validity of a marriage is determined by whether it complies with the law of the jurisdiction where it was celebrated. Throughout Ohio’s history, Ohio law has been clear: a marriage solemnized outside of Ohio is valid in Ohio if it is valid where solemnized… How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same sex marriages as ones it will not recognize? The short answer is that Ohio cannot.
The ruling notes that the discriminatory state rule likely violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Justice Anthony Kennedy cited similar equal protection reasoning last month in his majority opinion striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Black ordered that the local Ohio registrar may not to accept any death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as “married” and identify Obergefell as his “surviving spouse.”
It is unclear whether Ohio will appeal this order. While Black’s ruling only applies to this one couple, it may mark the beginning of the end for the Buckeye State’s marriage inequality amendment.
Watch Arthur and Obergefell’s powerful journey to Maryland to marry.