Federal Judge Orders Ohio Officials To Recognize Gay Couple’s Marriage
July 22nd, 2013
In as stunningly swift development, a Federal Judge has issued a temporary restraining order requiring Ohio state officials to recongize the marriage of John Arthur and Jim Obergefell, who were married two weeks ago in Maryland. Federal District Judge Timothy Black ordered Ohio officials to recognize the Cincinnati couple’s out-of-state marriage just as they recognizing marriges performed in other states even when those marriages cannot be performed in Ohio:
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. Thus, for example,under Ohio law, out-of-state marriages between first cousins are recognized by Ohio,even though Ohio law does not authorize marriages between first cousins. Likewise,under Ohio law, out of state marriages of minors are recognized by Ohio, even thoughOhio law does not authorize marriages of minors.
How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single outsame sex marriages as ones it will not recognize? The short answer is that Ohio cannot … at least not under the circumstances here.
By treating lawful same sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sexmarriages (e.g., marriages of first cousins and marriages of minors), Ohio law, as applied to these Plaintiffs, likely violates the United States Constitution which guarantees that”No State shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.
The end result here and now is that the local Ohio Registrar of death certificates is hereby ORDERED not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as ‘married’ and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse,’”
Judge Black noted that when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, it left in place Section 2, which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, but:
…the issue whether States canrefuse to recognize out-of-state same sex marriages is now surely headed to the fore.Indeed, just as Justice Scalia predicted in his animated dissent, by virtue of the presentlawsuit, “the state-law shoe” has now dropped in Ohio.
John Arthur is bedridden with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a progressive neurological disease which robs patients with the ability to walk, move, and eventually breath. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, Arthur and Obergefell, partners of 20 years, used donations from friends and relatives to charter a special medical transport plane and fly to Maryland two weeks ago, accompanied by a nurse, two pilots trained in emergency medicine, and Arthur’s aunt, who had been ordained specifically to perform the wedding. They married on the tarmac at an airport in Baltimore and immediately returned to their home in Cincinnati. Last Friday, the couple filed a lawsuit in Cincinnati Federal District Court demanding that the State of Ohio recognize their marriage.
Judge Black limited the order to Arthur and Obergefell only, citing the plaintiff’s “strong likelihood of success on the merits” and Arthur’s declining health for the urgency of his order:
…In addition to the alleged denial of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, the Court must also consider the fact that Mr. Arthur is in hospice care and death is imminent. Without a temporary restraining order, the official record of Mr. Arthur’s death, and the last official document recording his existence on earth, will incorrectly classify him as unmarried, despite his legal marriage to Mr. Obergefell. The death certificate will also incorrectly fail to record Mr. Obergefell as the “surviving spouse,” which status he lawfully enjoys. Furthermore, Mr. Arthur wants to be buried in his family plot at Spring Grove Cemetery. He also wants Mr. Obergefell to be buried next to him someday. The family plot directive limits those who may be interred in the plot to descendants and married spouses. Thus, without a temporary restraining order, Mr. Arthur’s burial may be delayed or his remains may have to be exhumed when this case is finally decided.
…Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed by the issuance of an order temporarily restraining the enforcement of these provisions against the Plaintiffs in this case. No one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will beaffected by such a limited order at all. Without an injunction, however, the harm toPlaintiffs is severe.