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Ohio judge hears arguments regarding funeral director’s standing in marriage equality challenge

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

Ohio state sealA federal judge in Ohio was presented with arguments yesterday as to whether or not a funeral director may continue to participate in a lawsuit seeking statewide recognition of same-sex marriages on death certificates despite Ohio’s marriage equality ban.  The AP reports on yesterday’s “lively court hearing”:

Judge Timothy Black heard arguments from the state attorney general’s office and the civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit in July, originally on behalf of one gay couple in Cincinnati who worried that they couldn’t be buried next to each other if their out-of-state marriage wasn’t recognized on their death certificates.

The addition of Cincinnati funeral director Robert Grunn to the lawsuit expanded the litigation to all gay couples in Ohio who have married in other states.

If Black removes Grunn from the case, his final ruling in the matter— expected in December — would only apply to couples named in the litigation, currently only two.

Grunn has told The Associated Press that he wants to do what’s right and recognize gay married couples as such on death certificates without fear of prosecution in light of the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The Ohio case, known as Obergefell v. Kasich, has been successively expanded since it was first filed by a couple seeking to have their out-of-state marriage recognized on one of the men’s death certificates.  Judge Black approved that couple’s request, and later did so for another couple as well.  Late last month, he expanded the lawsuit to include all couples in similar situations by allowing Grunn to join the suit.

At one point in the hearing, Black cast doubt on an argument presented by Bridget Coontz, representing Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, that every same-sex married couple in Ohio should be required to obtain court approval to be recognized as married on death certificates, asking, “You do it one by one as people die? Who better to raise this issue as to the death certificate of the same-sex couple than a funeral director who services, in large part, the gay community?”

As the AP notes, a final decision is expected in December.

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