FreedomOhio got some good news Tuesday, when it learned the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a case from Ohio in which the Court could require the state to recognize legal same-gender marriages performed in other states.
“This is big news,” said FreedomOhio co-founder and Executive Director Ian James. “FreedomOhio is excited that the Court will consider offering Ohioans the same legal protections that all couples and their families deserve. We will continue to energize and encourage Ohioans in pursuit of this goal, and we hope that 2015 will be a monumental year for equality.”
In the case, Obergefell et al. v. Hines, Cincinnati resident Jim Obergefell sued for his right to be listed as legally married to his now-deceased husband, John Arthur. Mr. Arthur and Mr. Obergefell were legally married in Maryland before Mr. Arthur lost his battle with ALS. While lower courts had sided with Mr. Obergefell and ruled in favor of recognizing their marriage, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed these rulings in November. By siding with Mr. Obergefell, the U.S. Supreme Court could require Ohio to recognize same-gender marriages legally performed out of state.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, currently engaged in his stealth campaign for president, will be on the opposite side of this issue, as he has been for his entire 36 years in public office. Mr. Kasich falls in line with most all Republicans on this issue. Ohio’s junior U.S. Senator, Rob Portman, who many think would make a good ticket mate for an establishment Republican like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is readying his run for the Oval Office, has changed his position to one that supports gay marriage following the revelation by his son that he is gay. Ohio’s senior U.S Senator, Sherrod Brown, is a strong supporter of marriage equality and has repeatedly spoken out on the issue.
In a separate but related matter, it was reported that an Ohio judge vacated his decision to allow a divorce after he found out the it involved two women, which Ohio law prohibits. Athens County Judge George McCarthy concluded he had to undo his decision because the union isn’t legally valid under Ohio’s gay marriage ban, the Athens Messenger reported today. Judge McCarthy vacated the approval late last week after scheduling hearings to explain the situation.
He said it came down to an issue of jurisdiction and legal authority and that the reversal doesn’t reflect any personal view of the women or their relationship. In his order, Judge McCarthy wrote, “The issue of same-sex marriage is one of nationwide concern, and higher courts than this will eventually determine the constitutional issues related thereto with finality. “In the meantime, Ohio law and policy … mandate that this court not recognize the parties’ union as a lawful marriage for purposes of Ohio divorce law.”
Kathy Wickmann, assignments commissioner for the Domestic Relations Division of Athens County Common Pleas Court, indicated that Magistrate Melinda Bradford told her that when she issued her ruling, she did not think it mattered under Ohio divorce law that the parties were of the same gender, according to a published report. Toledo attorney Scott Ciolek told one reporter he has represented members of same-sex married couples who were granted divorces by Ohio judges. Judges who do grant the divorces cite the U.S. Constitution, which Ciolek said states must give “full faith and credit” to judicial proceedings in out-of-state courts. “There are certain counties that will honor these marriages and give them full faith and credit, and there are certain counties, like Athens it sounds like, where they accept the Ohio Constitution and say that this is not actually a marriage in Ohio,” Ciolek said.
A spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the office has no policy on same-sex divorces and that same-sex divorces must be determined on a case-by-case basis in Ohio courts.
FreedomOhio is the state’s largest LGBT equality organization with over 62,000 members. The group is working to bring their clear, concise and constitutionally sound 46-word amendment to Ohio voters. The amendment will allow same-gender couples to go to a courthouse and receive a marriage license, while also protecting and respecting the rights of houses of worship to choose whether or not to perform and/or recognize those marriages. Polling from Public Policy Polling showed 56 percent of Ohio voters support FreedomOhio’s amendment.