Federal Judge Continues To Block Same-Sex Marriage Recognition For Most Ohioans

Apr 17, 2014

The federal district judge who earlier this week ruled Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages will continue to block that ruling from taking effect.

But there are a few couples not covered by the decision. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Federal Judge Tim Black says he thinks Ohio should recognize legal gay marriages performed in other states.  But he continued to block that ruling from taking effect while the state appeals it to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Black will, however, allow the four gay couples who want to be listed as parents on their children’s birth certificates to do that.  Dan Tierney with the Ohio Attorney General’s office says this ruling was expected.

“The state had requested that Judge Black stay his order with the exception of the named plaintiff’s requests for birth certificates.  The Judge seems to have granted that request in full.”

Tierney says the attorney general’s office did not fight to keep the four couples from being named on the birth certificates.  So he says those documents could be issued soon.

“ Three of the four couples are expecting.  One couple are adoptive parents.  So the issue of them getting the documents at this time may not be right as the births have not occurred for the majority of the named plaintiffs.”

Al Gerhardstein , the attorney who represents the four couples in this case, sees this ruling as a positive step forward for gay couples in Ohio.
“For at least these four couples, Ohio is a very affirming place, a place where their families are going to be valued.  And that’s important.  The birth certificates of their children are going to list both parents and that’s very exciting.  The implementation of same sex marriage recognition more broadly is going to be delayed but we will try to expedite the appeals process so full marriage recognition for all same-sex couples doesn’t trail very far behind.”

American Civil Liberty Union of Ohio Spokesman Nick Worner is also excited about this ruling.

“I think we are a step closer. The appellate court process is a slow process.  The Supreme Court process is a slow process.  But this is a really historic moment and it marks the beginning of something very exciting, I hope.”

A Columbus area lawyer had hoped there would have been some time between this ruling and the point at which a stay was granted by the Sixth Circuit.  Carol Fey had hoped to use that window to file paperwork to ask the courts to allow her and her partner to adopt the children they have raised.  While they have a legal agreement in place for years, they have never been, under Ohio law, able to adopt their children.

“We operate internally as a family but there are things that, legally speaking, doesn’t work very well until you can have both parents be legally recognized by parents.  And that takes adoption.”

Jonathan Entin is a Political Science and Law Professor at Case Western Reserve University. He says while the judge’s ruling in this case only affects these four couples, that doesn’t mean other couples in similar situations couldn’t use this ruling as a basis for future lawsuits.

“Anybody else who came in would presumably point to Judge Black’s ruling to say that his reasoning should control here not because it is binding but simply because, those other folks will say, he got it right.”

An opponent of gay marriage says Judge Black is a liberal federal judge.  Phil Burress thinks the state has a good shot of winning the appeal in this case.

“When it gets to the sixth circuit court of Appeals, then we will have judges who will interpret the law, not legislate from the bench.”

There is no timetable for when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will take up the case.