The same-sex couple who last week sued the state of Ohio for discrimination earned statewide recognition of their marriage, an advance some are calling a benchmark victory in rights for same-sex Ohio couples following the federal overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Monday granted the couple a temporary restraining order, mandating that a state death certificate, when issued, must recognize the marriage of the newlywed couple. Although the ruling only applies to the union of couple John Arthur and James Obergefell, the decision has paved the way for further hearings that could result in a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Ohio’s same-sex marriage ban.
The couple has lived together for 20 years and on July 11 flew to Maryland on a chartered plane and were married on a runway.
Arthur suffers from ALS, an extremely debilitating neurological disease, and is not expected to live much longer. Black’s ruling says that state and local officials cannot accept a death certificate for Arthur that does not record his status as “married” at the time of death, with Obergefell as the “surviving spouse.”
In his ruling, Black noted, “This is not a complicated case. The issue is whether the state of Ohio can discriminate against same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized out of state, when Ohio law has historically and unambiguously provided that the validity of a marriage is determined by whether it complies with the law of the jurisdiction where it was celebrated.”
He also noted: “In derogation of law, the Ohio scheme has unjustifiably created two tiers of couples: (1) opposite-sex married couples legally married in other states; and (2) same-sex married couples legally married in other states. This lack of equal protection of law is fatal.”
The grant currently affects only the union of Arthur and Obergefell, and the restraining order is set to expire Aug. 5. At that time parties must either agree to temporarily extend the restraining order or Judge Black must issue a preliminary injunction.
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