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Federal judge allows challenge to Ohio’s same-sex marriage ban to continue

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

U.S District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (seal)
U.S District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (seal)
A federal judge hearing a constitutional challenge to Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage ruled on Friday that the case may continue in the federal courts, and that funeral director Robert Grunn will remain a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The order sums up the court’s decision:

In simplified sum, Defendant argues that now that Messers. Arthur and Ives have died, there exists no live controversy for the Court to adjudicate and that Mr. Grunn’s attempt to take up the challenge is without legal basis. Upon close review and careful analysis, the Court disagrees.

EqualityOnTrial reported on the filings preceding the arguments last week, noting that the funeral director fears prosecution, since he will keep accurate records noting the same-sex spouses of those who are deceased:

[Grunn’s declaration] states that he fears prosecution were he, as a funeral director, to list a deceased person’s status as “married” if they were part of a legal same-sex marriage.

The motion to dismiss argues, among other things, that Grunn’s claims are too attenuated and rest on a separate legal claim not addressed by the original lawsuit. The opposition to that motion is here. The motion argues that Grunn has standing on his own because of his fear of being prosecuted, and he also has standing on behalf of third parties.

EqualityOnTrial also had post-argument coverage, noting that Judge Black seemed to tip his hand:

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?”

Because of the ruling against the motion to dismiss, the case will proceed and probably apply to all Ohioans after a final ruling:

By allowing Cincinnati funeral director Robert Grunn to remain a plaintiff, the judge allows for his upcoming final ruling in the lawsuit to apply to potentially every gay Ohio couple who married in another state.

In his ruling, he indirectly addressed critics of the lawsuit who have called for his impeachment for encroaching on state’s rights, among other allegations.

“Despite the fact that voters may support a given law, rights protected by the U.S. Constitution can never be subordinated to the vote of the majority,” the judge wrote.

The ruling says that “[t]he Court anticipates that this case will be ripe for full and final resolution in late December 2013.”

The case is Obergefell v. Kasich

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for this filing

1:13-cv-00501 #54 by Equality Case Files


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