Ohio steps toward marriage equality following death certificate lawsuit

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In terms of death certificates, an Ohio federal judge ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Judge Timothy Black ruled that state officials must recognize the unions of those married in states with marriage equality. His decision came from a lawsuit by two same-sex couples married out of state; in both couples, one spouse was terminal.

Same-sex marriage has been illegal in Ohio since the state passed a constitutional ban in 2004. However, Black says the state cannot discriminate against homosexuality and same-sex marriage just because voters “don’t like [it].”

“The question presented is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot—i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples…simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004),” Black wrote in his decision. “Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no.”

According to a poll released last week from Freedom to Marry Ohio, 56% of Ohioans now support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

While Black’s decision is specific to death certificates, it could prove an essential step to achieving marriage equality in The Buckeye State.

“Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away,” wrote Black.

He added, “When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same-sex couple married in another jurisdiction, it intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court.”

One of the two couples in the lawsuit, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, were married in a plane on the tarmac at the Washington International Airport on July 11. They had been a couple for over twenty years. Arthur died from ALS on October at the age of 48; their marriage was recognized on his death certificate.

429Magazine

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