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Federal judge orders Ohio state officials to recognize marriage of a same-sex couple

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By Scottie Thomaston Ohio state seal

Yesterday, a federal judge ordered the state of Ohio to recognize a same-sex marriage for the purpose of acknowledging a man’s marital status on his death certificate. John Arthur and James Obergefell live in Ohio and got married in Maryland, and Arthur was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) which is fatal. The couple wants the legality of the marriage recognized on Arthur’s death certificate: he is in hospice, and according to legal filings in the case, death is imminent. Ohio doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, so the couple challenged the non-recognition in federal court.

A hearing was held yesterday, and last night the judge granted a temporary restraining order barring the state from issuing a death certificate that refers to Arthur as unmarried.

Writing that “[t]his is not a complicated case,” the judge laid out the legal rationale under the Equal Protection Clause for recognizing both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages performed outside of the state:

Addressing the constitutional question, Black explained, “Although the law has long recognized that marriage and domestic relations are matters generally left to the states, the restrictions imposed on marriage by states, however, must nonetheless comply with the [U.S.] Constitution.”

To that end, the court examined the Supreme Court’s decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act this June in United States v. Windsor, the 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans, and in other decisions addressing differential treatment found to be unconstitutional under the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Looking at Ohio’s bans on recognizing same-sex couples’ out-of-state marriages, while acknowledging its recognition of the marriages of opposite-sex couples who would not be allowed to marry in Ohio, Black concluded, “The purpose served by treating same-sex married couples differently than opposite-sex married couples is the same improper purpose that failed in Windsor and in Romer: ‘to impose inequality’ and to make gay citizens unequal under the law.”

The judge found that a temporary restraining order is warranted here because the couple is likely to succeed on the merits of the constitutional challenge after a full trial – this was only an initial hearing, related to just the one order. The order notes that Arthur is in hospice and if the state isn’t temporarily restrained, Arthur’s constitutional rights may be violated before he passes away, and only remedied after his death.

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for these filings


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  • 2. Equality On TrialFederal &hellip  |  December 23, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    […] for Arthur, who suffered from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and died in October.  Judge Black ruled in the couple’s favor, later expanding the case to include another same-sex couple and […]

  • 3. docguy31  |  January 17, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    It's ridiculous to me in this day and age that in the United States supposedly land of liberty and home of the free, that you cannot be gay and get married. I agree doma should get completely struck down and marriage equality should be the law of the land.

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