Ohio's Out-of-State Gay Marriage Ruling On Hold Pending Appeal

By Brett Snider, Esq. on April 14, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal judge announced Monday that Ohio must recognize legally performed out-of-state gay marriages, but his order will not immediately go into effect.

Judge Timothy Black of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio determined that Ohio's refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages was "unconstitutional and unenforceable," reports The Columbus Dispatch. The ruling avoided dealing directly with Ohio's ban on performing in-state gay marriages.

With Black's ruling stayed pending appeal, what can we learn from this federal decision on gay marriage in Ohio?

Ohio Couple's Lawsuit Spurs Ruling

With at least one-third of U.S. states and Washington, D.C., now granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the issue of recognizing out-of-state marriages in Ohio isn't just academic.

Judge Black had ordered the Ohio Registrar in July to recognize the marriage of James Obergefell and John Arthur as Arthur was near death. The couple had been married legally in Maryland and needed Ohio's government to designate them as spouses in order to be buried together.

In his ruling Monday, Judge Black applied his reasoning in the Obergefell case to all Ohioans, stating that marriage-recognition bans were "facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances." Black noted that 10 other federal courts have struck down similar state bans following the U.S. Supreme Court's striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Many of these courts have ruled just as Judge Black did, staying their decisions and temporarily preventing same-sex marriages from being recognized.

Marriage Ban May Be Overturned by Voters

Black's decision will await appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but Ohioans may not need to wait for the appellate court to act. On Monday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved, would effectively overturn the Buckeye State's gay marriage ban.

The potential amendment comes 10 years after the majority of Ohio voters agreed to amend their state constitution to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages. According to CNN, the amendment passed with 62 percent of the popular vote in 2004.

But if other states' embrace of gay marriage is any indication, public opinion may have changed in the past 10 years; if so, then this attempt to overturn Ohio's gay marriage ban may yet succeed.

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