Judge stays most of Ohio gay marriage ruling
CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio officials must immediately recognize the same-sex marriages of four couples who sued over the state’s gay marriage ban, a federal judge said Wednesday, while staying the broader effects of his ruling to avoid “premature celebration and confusion” in case it is overturned on appeal.
Judge Timothy Black stayed his ruling ordering Ohio to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in other states pending appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeals process likely will take months.
Had Black not issued the stay, all married gay couples living in Ohio would have been able to immediately begin obtaining the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for each other.
Black said the stay does not apply to the four couples who filed the February lawsuit that led to the court case, and ordered Ohio to immediately list both spouses in each relationship as parents on their children’s birth certificates.
Ohio is one of many U.S. states in the throes of legal battles over gay marriage. Including Black, eight federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court’s decision last June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law. All but one of those rulings has been stayed pending appeal.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and Washington, D.C.
In explaining the stay, Black said that although he doesn’t think the state’s appeal will succeed, there is still a chance the 6th Circuit could overturn his decision.
“Premature celebration and confusion do not serve anyone’s best interests,” Black said.
In a court filing arguing for a stay, attorneys for the state did not contest Black’s stated inclination to allow the four couples to both be listed on their children’s birth certificates.
“We’re happy that the judge agreed to the stay,” said Rob Nichols, Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman. He declined to comment further.
Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati civil rights attorney who represents the four couples in the lawsuit and argued against a stay of any kind, said in a statement that “at least for these four couples, the Constitution stands on the side of love.”
Three of the four couples who filed the lawsuit live in the Cincinnati area. One spouse in each relationship is pregnant and due to give birth this summer. The fourth couple lives in New York City but adopted a child from Ohio.
In Monday’s ruling, Black said the state’s refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriage is a violation of constitutional rights and “unenforceable in all circumstances.”
Although Black’s order does not force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state, Gerhardstein said he was planning to file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks seeking such a ruling.
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