Ohio must recognize out-of-state gay marriages, federal judge rules

File: U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black (AP Photo/Cincinnati Bar Association, File)
File: U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black (AP Photo/Cincinnati Bar Association)

A federal judge said Friday he would issue a ruling requiring Ohio to recognize all same-sex marriages performed in other states.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black's decision in the Henry v. Wymyslo  case comes about nine months after he ruled that Ohio must recognize a gay couple's marriage in Maryland, where same-sex marriage is legal, on the death certificate of one of the partners.

Lawyers for a number of same-sex couples expanded their original request to cover all marriages performed in states that allow same-sex unions. On Friday, Black said from the bench that his forthcoming order would rule unconstitutional Ohio's ban on recognizing legal same-sex marriages from other states.

Black said he will issue his ruling on April 14, giving the state time to prepare an appeal; the order will not take effect until it is issued in written form. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told WVXU Radio he would appeal to the Sixth Circuit.

"It's going to make a real difference in the lives of couples who are legally married and deserve to be treated as what they are," said Evan Wolfson, president of the pro-same-sex marriage group Freedom to Marry. "The federal government treats those couples as equal in terms of federal programs, but Ohio continues to discriminate, and that must end."

The ruling will not require Ohio to perform same-sex marriages inside its own borders.

It's the latest victory for advocates of same-sex marriage ten months after the Supreme Court held that the federal government had to treat homosexual unions as they would heterosexual marriages. That case, United States v. Windsor, found a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Black's original ruling requiring Ohio to comply with federal rules came a month after the Windsor decision.

Ohio banned same-sex marriages and civil unions in 2004, when voters passed a constitutional amendment with 62 percent of the vote.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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