Cincinnati, Ohio April 14, 2014. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Black ruled today that Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other states is unconstitutional and such marriages must be recognized under the law for all purposes. However, Judge Black temporarily stayed his decision – delaying its effect – and asked the parties to brief their arguments for and against a stay by tomorrow, April 15, 2014. Judge Black will then rule quickly on whether to delay the full effects of his ruling until it is reviewed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“This is a great day for many Ohio families,” Lead counsel, Al Gerhardstein, stated. “Yesterday, they lived in a state that discriminated against them; today they live in a state that has declared them equal. Their marriages, the very foundations of their families, are recognized under the law. This ruling is a sweeping declaration in favor of same-sex marriage recognition.”
The plaintiffs who brought this case are same-sex couples married in one of the 17 states or the District of Columbia where marriage for same-sex couples is legal. They sought an order requiring Ohio to recognize their marriages just as Ohio recognizes the out-of-state marriages of opposite-sex couples.
The plaintiffs include three lesbian couples. One of the women in each marriage is pregnant through artificial insemination. Their babies will all be born in Cincinnati hospitals in the next few months. They sought an order requiring the State to place the names of both parents on the birth certificates of their newborns. In Ohio, a husband is named on a child’s birth certificate and legally recognized as the “natural father” even when his wife becomes pregnant through artificial insemination and he is not a biological parent. Plaintiffs sought the same treatment and Judge Black ruled that the United States Constitution gives them that right and ordered the Ohio Department of Health to issue accurate birth certificates to their children when they are born.
Plaintiffs also include a same-sex couple married and living in New York. They adopted a baby born in Ohio and sought an order requiring Ohio to honor their New York adoption decree by placing both of their names on their son’s birth certificate, as would happen if they were an opposite-sex couple. Judge Black also ruled in their favor, ordering the Ohio Department of Health to amend the birth certificate of their son.
The lawsuit has national significance. Co-counsel includes Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal. She stated, “Ohio’s refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages has led to countless families, like our plaintiffs, being put in the vulnerable and humiliating position of having to choose who is named as a parent on a critical document that will travel with their child throughout the child’s life. Birth certificates show that both parents are authorized to enroll a child in school, make medical decisions in an emergency, and access vital state and federal benefits for their child. No family should have to endure this disrespect and insecurity for their child.”
Since the Supreme Court struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, eight federal courts have ordered their states to recognize and/or celebrate marriages between same-sex couples. Eight Attorney Generals have also announced they will not defend such laws because they are unconstitutional. Ohio’s Attorney General, Mike Dewine, has indicated he will continue to defend Ohio’s marriage-ban.
Speaking about the wave of recent judicial decisions, Al Gerhardstein said, “A consensus is finally emerging – the United States Constitution stands on the side of love.”
WHO: Al Gerhardstein, of Gerhardstein & Branch, Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, and plaintiff couples Brittani Henry and Brittni Rogers, Nicole and Pam Yorksmith, Joseph J. Vitale and Robert Talmas, and Kelly Noe and Kelly McCracken.
Co-counsel also include Jennifer Branch, Jaci Gonzales Martin, Ellen Essig and Lisa Meeks of Cincinnati, and Lambda Legal attorneys Currey Cook and Paul Castillo. Litigation pleadings are at www.gbfirm.com. More background information on Lambda Legal’s national campaign for the freedom to marry is at lambdalegal.org/LoveUnitesUs.