Lambda Legal and ACLU Ask Supreme Court to Review Ohio Marriage Cases

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November 14, 2014
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Today Lambda Legal, the ACLU and private firm Gerhardstein & Branch filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ aberrant ruling upholding discriminatory bans on marriage rights for same-sex couples in Ohio and three other states.  The Sixth Circuit is the only federal circuit court after the Supreme Court’s watershed 2013 Windsor ruling to uphold such bans and departs from recent decisions from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, which have led to the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in many more states throughout the country.

The joint filing covers two lawsuits filed by Gerhardstein & Branch: Henry v. Hodges, joined by Lambda Legal, seeking to compel the State of Ohio to recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples and issue accurate birth certificates, and Obergefell v. Hodges, joined by the ACLU, seeking to order the State to issue accurate death certificates to married same-sex couples.

Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, said:

We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling shines a spotlight on our divided country, where married same-sex couples are either respected or discriminated against, depending on where they live or even where they travel. As we have learned from other historic cases like Loving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas, there comes a time when the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in, and provides the answer,--on the question of marriage for same-sex couples we believe that time has come.

Learn more about Love Unites US, our national campaign for marriage equality.

Henry v. Hodges was filed in February 2014. All plaintiff couples are seeking recognition of their marriages for all purposes, from respect for their parentage of their children to how they must pay their taxes.  Most urgently, they seek accurate birth certificates naming both spouses as the parents of their babies. The Ohio Department of Health, the agency charged with issuing birth certificates whose Director is the Defendant in the case, refused to issue or amend birth certificates for same-sex parents.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, the state appealed a federal court ruling that Ohio must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states for the purpose of listing surviving spouses on death certificates.

Al Gerhardstein, Attorney for Gerhardstein & Branch, said:

We look forward to presenting our arguments on behalf of our plaintiff families and all Ohio same-sex couples in front of the highest court in the land. With more than 62% of the US population residing in a state where same-sex couples have marriage equality, we must ensure that all those same-sex marriages are recognized when the cross into Ohio.

Read more about Henry v. Hodges on Lambda Legal’s case page.

Henry and Obergefell, demonstrate the importance of marriage to families from the cradle to the grave, from the birth of their children through the death of a spouse and beyond.

"It's profoundly unfair for Ohio to tell these couples that their lawful marriages meant nothing and that their spouses are legal strangers. When you're married, you're married, no matter whether you travel or move to another state." said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project, "The country needs a uniform rule on respect for marriage, and only the Supreme Court can give it to us."

In August, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also heard arguments in five more cases challenging discriminatory marriage laws in every state in the Circuit, including cases Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee in addition to Ohio.

Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, along with Lambda Legal attorneys Paul Castillo and M. Currey Cook, join Al Gerhardstein, Jennifer Branch and Jaci Gonzales Martin of Gerhardstein & Branch, and Ellen Essig and Lisa Meeks of Cincinnati.

Read the press release.