The debate over same-sex marriage came to the forefront of Ohio’s attorney general race after Democratic candidate David Pepper drew up an online petition calling on Attorney General Mike DeWine to drop a court battle against a local gay couple.
Pepper’s petition is in direct response to the legal battle surrounding Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who legally married in Maryland last year and won legal recognition of their marriage in Arthur’s Ohio death certificate. (Arthur passed away after suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate.)
The case originally applied only to Obergefell and Arthur, but U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited equal protection grounds to force state officials to acknowledge gay marriages in all Ohio death certificates.
With DeWine’s office acting as the attorneys in the case, the state intends to appeal the ruling.
The attorney general’s office told CityBeat it’s up to the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to decide whether to appeal the ruling.
But DeWine previously defended his intention to uphold Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2004.
“Our job is to defend Ohio’s constitution and defend what voters have voted on,” he told WKSU Public Radio.
In his petition, Pepper argues it’s DeWine’s duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect the local couple’s court-established marriage rights.
“What a waste of taxpayer dollars, and what a misuse of an office whose duty is to stand up to — not for — the unconstitutional treatment of Ohioans,” the petition reads.
While DeWine and Pepper will face off in the upcoming November ballot, same-sex marriage could appear on the ballot as well — despite disagreement among LGBT groups on the timing.
Pepper’s petition can be read and signed here.