Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages held out of state, judge rules

Narrow ruling says Ohio death certificate must recognize gay couple's Maryland marriage

  • Jim Obergefell and John Arthur married on a medical jet at BWI in July. Arthur's ALS made it difficult to travel, but they had to make the trip because Ohio doesn't allow same-sex marriage.
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur married on a medical jet at BWI… (Photo courtesy of Jim Obergefell )
December 23, 2013|By Michael Gold, The Baltmiore Sun

Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages held in other states on Ohio death certificates, a federal judge decided Monday in a case sparked by an Ohio couple's July wedding on the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport tarmac.

"The right to remain married ... is a fundamental liberty interest appropriately protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution," U.S. District Judge Timothy Black wrote in a narrow ruling that does not overturn Ohio's same-sex marriage ban.

In July, Black initially issued a temporary injunction for John Arthur and Jim Obergefell, requiring state officials to recognize the couple's Maryland marriage on Arthur's death certificate. Arthur, who was terminally ill, died in October. But the lawsuit he and Obergefell initiated grew to include other couples and led to Monday's decision.

Because Obergefell and his fellow plaintiffs only disputed the constitutionality of Ohio's handling of death certificates, Black's ruling is fairly narrow in scope. But he writes that states cannot "discriminate against same-sex couples ... simply because the majority of the voters don't like homosexuality," a statement reaching wider than the specific case itself.

Still, since Black's ruling focuses on "the right to remain married," the status quo holds for same-sex couples in Ohio: They'll need to hold their weddings out of state.

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