Gay Widower James Obergefell Wins Challenge to Ohio Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Ohio must recognize valid out-of-state, same-sex marriages, a federal judge ruled, clearing the way for a man to be buried next to his late husband.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Black granted James Obergefell a permanent injunction that prevents Ohio from accepting any death certificate not listing him as John Arthur’s surviving spouse.Arthur died in October from Lou Gehrig’s disease. The couple lived in Cincinnati and traveled to Maryland this past summer to be legally married and consummate their committed relationship of more than 20 years.
“On July 11, 2013, plaintiffs traveled to Maryland in a special jet equipped with medical equipment and a medical staff necessary to serve Mr. Arthur’s needs, whereupon plaintiffs were married in the jet as it sat on the tarmac in Anne Arundel County, Maryland,” Black wrote in a previous ruling on the case. “They returned to Cincinnati that same day.”
They sued Ohio’s governor, attorney general and Cincinnati’s vital statistics registrar that month to ensure the state would not list Arthur as “unmarried” on his death certificate.
Arthur was buried in his family plot at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. His dying wish was that Obergefell would one day be buried next to him. But the cemetery limits those who may be buried in the plot to relatives and married spouses. Black quickly granted the couple a temporary restraining order , and he made the relief permanent on Dec. 23. The 50-page ruling cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Windsor v. United States , which struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“There is no legitimate state purpose served by Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated in states where they are legal,” Black wrote.
Obergefell also deserves a declaration that Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex, out-of-state marriages is unconstitutional, according to the ruling.