Federal judge orders Ohio to recognize marriage of dying gay man

In a big move, but not a surprising one (I’d argue), a federal judge in Ohio has ordered the state to immediately recognize the recent marriage of a gay Ohio couple in Maryland.


One of the two men is terminally ill, and now in hospice care, but they raised they were able to raise enough money to fly a private jet to Maryland last week, where marriages of gay people are legal, and get married on the tarmac (the dying partner in a hospital bed) before immediately flying back to Ohio.

The men, Jim Obergefell, and his ailing husband, John Arthur, sued the state of Ohio to require them to list them as married on Arthur’s impending death certificate.  The federal judge granted the couple a temporary restraining order, forcing the state to file the death certificate correctly.

More importantly, the judge mentioned the recent Supreme Court DOMA decision as part of his justification for granting the TRO.  (The case will still have to go to trial.)  More from Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed:

Looking at Ohio’s bans on recognizing same-sex couples’ out-of-state marriages, while acknowledging its recognition of the marriages of opposite-sex couples who would not be allowed to marry in Ohio, Black concluded, “The purpose served by treating same-sex married couples differently than opposite-sex married couples is the same improper purpose that failed in Windsor and in Romer: ‘to impose inequality’ and to make gay citizens unequal under the law.”

Welcome to the post-Windsor world.

I really think the court granted us nationwide gay marriage in all but name.  Yes, the way they did it requires us to go state-by-state and strike down individual state-DOMA laws, but that was the genius of the court’s decision.  They paid homage to the notion that the court shouldn’t upend the “democratic experiment” taking place in the states, while at the same time coming up with a decision that basically leaves the states no wiggle room to say “no” to marriage equality for gays once the state DOMAs are challenged.

So yes, it will take longer for us to get marriage in 50 states – thus a nod to the notion that the court shouldn’t change everything nationwide immediately – but at the same time, they pretty much guaranteed that we’ll win.  And this Ohio ruling is quite possibly the first evidence of that fact.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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29 Responses to “Federal judge orders Ohio to recognize marriage of dying gay man”

  1. Julien Pierre says:

    In other news, Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will “defend the right of Ohioans to define marriage” .


  2. mirror says:

    My wonderful lesbian neighbors got married yesterday in WA!!

  3. nicho says:

    Fixed –thank you

  4. Rambie says:

    I agree Emjayay, and I fear that some on our side will get content that the “war is won” and open us all up for a sucker punch.

  5. emjayay says:

    They haven’t quite given up on the War of Northern Aggression quite yet apparently.

  6. Thom Allen says:

    It’s a shame that we have to celebrate this kind of a victory – the decision to let one man be listed as spouses on a death certificate. Hopefully, over the next few years, these types of lawsuits will become extinct.

    Thank you, Judge Timothy Black, for being the “Make a Wish Foundation” for this dying man.

  7. BeccaM says:

    Harder to amend or repeal them — but not impossible to overturn at the judicial level, which is why I’ve said before that the most sweeping advances in civil rights are usually from the bench.

    Legislation may be seen as more ‘legitimate’, but it almost always just pecks around the edges and is prone to failure in execution. Just witness the uselessness of the hate crimes law we all fought for, but which might as well not exist.

  8. BeccaM says:

    In somewhat related news, New Mexico’s state AG, Gary King, has announced he will not defend our state’s de facto ban on same sex marriage, citing a state requirement for equal protection under the law.

    “New Mexico’s guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens,” King said in the filing (to the NM State Supreme Court).

    He argues the state Supreme Court should strike down the ban, if justices agree to consider a lawsuit filed by two Santa Fe men.


  9. Ninong says:

    You have a typo in your comment. You wrote “section 2” when you meant Section 3. The Court ruled Secton 3 is unconstitutional. That’s the section that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for federal purposes.

    Section 2 is the section that gives the states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, which is clearly a violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause but the Court wasn’t asked to rule on Section 2.

    If Section 3 is unconstitutional, then all of DOMA will fall, it’s just a matter of time.

  10. nicho says:

    While the Supreme Court ruled only on section 2, because that’s all it was asked to do, it was quite adamant in the body of the decision that DOMA itself, in its entirety, is unconstitutional. It kept repeating that over and over. It didn’t restrict that to just section 2. It kept saying that the entire DOMA act is unconstitutional. That’s going to be a tremendous help in future court cases.

  11. Monoceros Forth says:

    Did the grandfather do this specifically to spite the husband of the dying man? If so…ugh.

  12. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    There is definitely a bad side to this story. The couple had to resort to this so that they could be buried next to each other. Apparently, one of their grandfathers had changed the restrictions to the family plot so that only a legal spouse could be buried along with the family member. It’s really disgusting that a family member did that.

  13. S1AMER says:

    Amen to that.

  14. tamarz says:

    don’t denigrate peasants. My grandmother was an illiterate peasant (seriously, she couldn’t read or write), but she helped start and run a small business, raised 4 daughters and sent them all to college. And all of them were very liberal politically. The right wing isn’t good enough to get a designation of peasant.

  15. Rambie says:

    Living in a red state, I’m not counting the war “won” until all 50 states have gay marriage.

  16. Butch1 says:

    This is a good thing.

  17. Bill_Perdue says:

    It took twenty years of hard work, demonstrations and legal fights by tens of thousands of activists to strike down Section Three and story makes all worth while.

  18. tamarz says:

    Let’s not forget the infinite sadness of this situation. A dying spouse and both have to fight for rights that should be unquestionably theirs. I’m in awe of this couple.

  19. dcinsider says:

    He’s a federal magistrate, so I suspect that he may not be handling the case when it comes to trial. It may be more likely taken by a district court judge.

  20. S1AMER says:

    Yes, it is quite good — particularly since this is merely a temporary restraining order, issued only a day or two after the case was filed! I can’t wait to see what the judge writes if the case proceeds to resolution (assuming Kasich and DeWine choose to pursue the case).

  21. dcinsider says:

    Just read the decision. brilliant.

  22. dcinsider says:

    There will be ups and downs. There will be federal judges who do not follow this judge’s reasoning. There will be appeals. However, while the battles remain, the war has been won.

  23. mr_ed says:

    The reason issues are added to the constitution is that amending or repealing them becomes tremendously difficult. Ohio’s not alone in this, but sure seems to be a leader.

  24. Leota2 says:

    This is actually amazing for this state. Living in Ohio can be depressing. Not a very welcoming state for LGBT. During the Bush reign the theocrats put an anti-gay marriage amendment in our state constitution. Our statehouse doesn’t like LGBT and doesn’t like women. Bravo to the judge.

  25. S1AMER says:

    We won the war with the Windsor decision; no question about that. But we still have many battles to fight to undo Section 2 of DOMA and all the hateful state laws and state constitutional amendments. It will take years, it will take legal and political battles in nearly three dozen states, and it will probably take another trip or two to the U.S. Supreme Court. We will have large, exciting victories, but I suspect much of the ground we will gain will come in poignanat cases such as these two dear men from Ohio.

  26. Indigo says:

    Good! What a sad commentary on our American cultural values that it takes a court order in the face of an approach death for a marriage to be recognized but it’s progress over the invisibility of gays in the recent past. What is wrong with our pseudo-Christian peasantry that they hate what they do not understand?

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