Federal Judge: Ohio Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriages From Other States

CREDIT: Shutterstock
CREDIT: Shutterstock

As promised, federal judge Timothy Black has issued a ruling Monday ordering the state of Ohio to recognize same-sex couples’ marriages performed in other states for all purposes. It builds off Black’s previous decision ordering such recognition for the sole purpose of death certificates.

The order does not specifically address whether Ohio must issues same-sex marriages because that was beyond the scope of the complaints filed, but Black unequivocally concluded that “Ohio’s marriage recognition bans are facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances.”

Though Black cites his previous decision throughout, he does emphasize certain points that are newly relevant in this case, particularly how Ohio’s ban on recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages infringes on their family’s legal protections. Here are a few points from the decision that Black himself chose to highlight with text that was both bolded and underlined:

  • “The fundamental right to marry is available even to those who have not traditionally been eligible to exercise that right.”
  • “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.”
  • “The inability to obtain an accurate birth certificate saddles the child with the life-long disability of a government identity document that does not reflect the child’s parentage and burdens the ability of the child’s parents to exercise their parental rights and responsibilities.”

Black also called out the weak arguments that Ohio officials made in court, pointing out how they can not compensate for the harm caused by discrimination:

  • “Given that all practicing attorneys, as well as the vast majority of all citizens in this country, are fully aware that unconstitutional laws cannot stand, even when passed by popular vote, Defendants’ repeated appeal to the purportedly sacred nature of the will of Ohio voters is particularly specious.”
  • “Here, Defendants’ discriminatory conduct most directly affects the children of same-sex couples, subjecting these children to harms spared the children of opposite-sex married parents. Ohio refuses to give legal recognition to both parents of these children, based on the State’s disapproval of their same-sex relationships.”
  • “The overwhelming scientific consensus, based on decades of peer-reviewed scientific research, shows unequivocally that children raised by same-sex couples are just as well adjusted as those raised by heterosexual couples.”

The case was brought by several same-sex couples who are soon expecting children. Black has stayed the decision pending appeal, but is still considering allowing an injunction so that those couples’ children can receive accurate birth certificates that include the names of both of their parents.