Judge Timothy Black, federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, announced last Friday that he will issue a decision later this month that will strike down part of Ohio’s ban on gay marriage by ordering the state to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.
Black announced his intentions in a Cincinnati federal court following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban. “I intend to issue a declaration that Ohio’s recognition bans, that have been relied upon to deny legal recognition to same-sex couples validly entered in other states where legal, violates the rights secured by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Black said. “[Same-sex couples are] denied their fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married.”
Originally, the lawsuit only asked for recognition of out-of-state gay marriages on birth certificates, but later expanded for a broader ruling. Attorneys for the state argued that Ohio has made its own decision regarding marriage in the traditional definition, and that striking down the law would “disregard the will of Ohio voters, and undercut the democratic process.”
Pam and Nicole Yorksmith, a Cincinnati couple who married in California in 2008, are one of four couples who filed the lawsuit challenging the gay-marriage ban. Pam Yorksmith says Black’s ruling validates not only their marriage, but their children. “We’re teaching kids of future generations that all families are different, and just because our family doesn’t look like your family doesn’t mean that ours shouldn’t be recognized.” The Yorksmiths have a 3-year-old son, and are expecting their second child this June.
Gay rights organizations are pleased with Friday’s development. Ian James of FreedomOhio said, “The court’s forthcoming action shines a bright light on the fact that same-sex couples are denied their 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.”
Of course, there are others who feel differently. Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, said his group is prepared to fight any ballot initiative to repeal the marriage ban. According to Burress, “This is not the will of the people. This is a Hail Mary pass to get everyone forced to recognize same-sex marriage by having the courts do their dirty work.”
Black will issue his ruling April 14. Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio’s attorney general, says the state will appeal the order.
Similar bans have already been struck down in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Gay marriage is currently legal in 17 states.