Friday, April 18, 2014

155.1 - Good News: win for marriage justice in Ohio

Good News: win for marriage justice in Ohio

Starting off, as I always like to do when I can with some good news, we have the fact that on April 14, federal district court Judge Timothy Black ordered the state of Ohio to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally married in other states. Ohio thus joins Oregon, Kentucky, and Tennessee as states that have been ordered by federal courts to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Judge Black said the Ohio ban on recognizing such marriages is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

This does not mean that same-sex couples can get married in Ohio; that was not an issue before the court. It does mean that such couples who were married before they came to Ohio still are married after they get there and they will have the same privileges and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples in the state.

The context of this case is a bit different from other cases. It involved four same-sex couples, three female and two male, all legally married. The female couples had each conceived a child through artificial insemination while the male couple had adopted a child from Ohio. Each couple wanted to have both names listed as parents on their child's birth certificates, which Ohio refused to do because it won't recognize them as married. (I should mention parenthetically, to be clear, that Ohio does allow opposite-sex couples who adopt children to be listed as parents on the birth certificate.) Under Black's order, the parents will get their wishes.

Black held off deciding whether to stay his order to give the two sides a chance to argue if he should. However, his did say he was inclined to allow his ruling to take effect for the particular four who filed the initial lawsuit, even if he held off enforcing it on the behalf of others.

Black was blistering in his ruling, saying that the ban had been enacted “with discriminatory animus and without a single legitimate justification.” He also wrote that the ban "embodies an unequivocal, purposeful, and explicitly discriminatory classification, singling out same-sex couples alone, for disrespect of their out-of-state marriages and denial of their fundamental liberties” and labeled the by-now moldy argument that the court should "respect the voters' wishes" even where fundamental rights are concerned, "specious" and the supposed "state interests" involved as "vague, speculative, and/or unsubstantiated."

In my favorite passage, Black wrote that
The record before this court ... is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the State’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
"Staggeringly devoid of justification" describes all the opposition to marriage equality. It was good to see it said so directly.

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