Sixth Circuit Hears Arguments in Six Cases Seeking Recognition of Marriage and Adoption for Same-Sex Couples

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August 6, 2014

Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a federal lawsuit seeking to compel the State of Ohio to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples and issue accurate birth certificates listing both parents for the Ohio-born children of married same-sex couples.

The case, Henry v. Himes, filed by Gerhardstein & Branch, was joined by Lambda Legal and is one of six marriage-related cases the court is hearing today from across the Sixth Circuit.

FAQ: Marriage at the 6th Circuit

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

Married same-sex couples are having children in and adopting children from Ohio, and the state should not be stacking the deck against those children by refusing to recognize the marriages of their parents. The Sixth Circuit should join the avalanche of federal circuit and district courts around the country ruling that depriving same-sex couples and their families of the protections and dignity that come with marriage is flat out unconstitutional.

Al Gerhardstein, Attorney for Gerhardstein & Branch, said:

Our clients and their children need the full protections of marriage. The state of Ohio’s refusal to recognize marriages of same-sex couples relegates them to a second-class status for no legitimate reason.  We are asking the court to side with love and commitment, and to recognize the importance of our families’ marriages and their need for the security that comes from accurate birth certificates.

Marriage Chart: Keep up to date with all marriage equality cases pending nationwide

The case was filed in February 2014. Plaintiffs include Brittani Henry and Brittni Rogers, a married same-sex couple and the parents of a baby boy born in May 2014; Georgia and Pamela Yorksmith, who married in California in 2008 and have a three-year-old son born in Ohio and another baby born in June 2014; Kelly Noe and Kelly McCracken, married in Massachusetts in 2011, with one son born in June 2014 in Ohio; and Joseph J. Vitale and Robert Talmas, a married same-sex couple living in New York City and the parents of an adopted son born in Ohio.

All plaintiff couples are seeking recognition for their marriages and accurate birth certificates listing both parents. The Ohio Department of Health, the agency charged with issuing birth certificates whose Director is the Defendant in the case, has refused to issue or amend birth certificates for same-sex parents.

This case, along with Obergefell v. Himes, also on appeal, demonstrates the importance of marriage to families through the life span, from the birth of their children through the death of a spouse and beyond. In the Obergefell case, in which Gerhardstein is lead counsel, the state is appealing a federal court ruling that the state of Ohio must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states for the purpose of listing surviving spouses on death certificates.

In April, a federal district court declared in the Henry case that Ohio's ban on recognizing out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples is unconstitutional in all respects. The opinion further extended "heightened scrutiny" - a high level of judicial review - to Ohio’s discrimination against same-sex married couples and their children. The Court also held that the state violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution by denying recognition to out-of-state adoption decrees of same-sex couples and by refusing to amend the birth certificates of their Ohio-born adopted children. At the same time, the court stayed its own decision for all but the plaintiff families until the conclusion of the court proceedings.

Brittani Henry said:

Our son is just starting out in this world, and we hope he can begin his life on equal footing with other children in Ohio. We are both his mothers and his birth certificate should reflect that. It shouldn’t be any other way.

Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also heard arguments from five more cases challenging discriminatory marriage laws in every state in the Circuit, including Obergefell v. Himes, also challenging Ohio’s marriage recognition ban, and cases from Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Read the press release.