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Judge Considers Staying Ohio Gay Marriage Ruling

by Amanda Lee Myers
Tuesday Apr 15, 2014
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Attorney Al Gerhardstein, left, stands with several same-sex couples at a news conference, Friday, April 4, 2014, in Cincinnati. Civil rights attorneys are arguing in Federal Court on Friday that a federal judge should prohibit Ohio officials from enforcing the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Attorney Al Gerhardstein, left, stands with several same-sex couples at a news conference, Friday, April 4, 2014, in Cincinnati. Civil rights attorneys are arguing in Federal Court on Friday that a federal judge should prohibit Ohio officials from enforcing the state’s ban on gay marriage.   (Source:AP Photo/Al Behrman)

CINCINNATI -- A federal judge who ordered Ohio to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states says he’s inclined to issue a stay of his decision pending appeal, meaning most gay couples living in the state would see no immediate tangible expansion of their rights.

Cincinnati-based Judge Timothy Black ordered attorneys on both sides of the case to file their arguments over whether he should issue a stay no later than Tuesday afternoon. He indicated he would rule expeditiously.

Black said in his Monday ruling that he is inclined to stay his ruling pending appeal except in the case of the four gay couples who filed the February lawsuit that led to the court case.

If he rules as indicated, Ohio would immediately have to recognize the four couple’s marriages and list both spouses as parents on their children’s birth certificates.

Three of the four couples live in the Cincinnati area. They’re all women and one spouse in each relationship is pregnant and due to give birth this summer.

The fourth couple lives in New York City but adopted their child from Ohio.

Black said Monday that the state’s gay marriage ban "most directly affects the children of same-sex couples, subjecting these children to harms spared the children of opposite-sex married parents."

"Birth certificates are vitally important documents," Black wrote. "Ohio’s refusal to recognize plaintiffs’ and other same-sex couples’ valid marriages imposes numerous indignities, legal disabilities, and psychological harms. Further, the state violates plaintiffs’ and other same-sex couples’ fundamental constitutional rights to marry, to remain married, and to function as a family."

Black’s order does not force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state, though civil rights attorneys in Cincinnati are planning to file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks seeking such a ruling.

The state plans to appeal Black’s Monday order, arguing that Ohio has a sovereign right to ban gay marriage, which voters did overwhelmingly in 2004.

Attorneys for the state also will argue that Black should stay his ruling until their appeal of it is decided in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

If Black declines to stay the ruling, that would allow all married gay couples living in Ohio to obtain the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for their partner.

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