Victory! Federal Court Declares Ohio Ban on Recognizing Marriages of Same-Sex Couples Unconstitutional

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April 14, 2014

(Cincinnati, OH, April 14, 2014) — Today, in a strongly worded ruling, a federal court in Ohio declared Ohio’s ban on recognizing out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples unconstitutional in all respects. The opinion further extends “heightened scrutiny” – a high level of judicial review – to its review of the harms suffered by the children of same-sex parents when they are denied birth certificates listing both parents, and finds that the State of Ohio has no justification to discriminate against them in this way. 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 and by refusing to amend the birth certificates of Ohio-born children.

This is the tenth consecutive ruling by a federal judge invalidating state bans on marriage recognition since the Supreme Court ruling in Windsor last June.

The ruling in the case Henry v. Wymslo, states:

“When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same-sex couple married in another jurisdiction by refusing to recognize the marriage, that state unlawfully intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court.

“The inability to obtain an accurate birth certificate saddles the child with the life-long disability of a government identity document that does not reflect the child’s parentage and burdens the ability of the child’s parents to exercise their parental rights and responsibilities.

“Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions violates the substantive due process rights of the parties to those marriages because it deprives them of their rights to marry, to remain married, and to effectively parent their children, absent a sufficient articulated state interest for doing so.”

In response, Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal issued the following statement:

“This is a great day for fairness and respect for Ohio families. This powerful opinion affirms what we have been arguing all along:  These couples’ marriages were disrespected by Ohio’s discriminatory laws, and created not only a second-class of families by nullifying legal marriages from other states, but also a second-class of parents, where one could be listed on a birth certificate and one could not. We’re thrilled for our plaintiff families and will continue to pursue relief for all same-sex couples and their children in Ohio.”

The decision is stayed pending further briefing, but the judge has indicated that he will act very quickly on a decision about which, if any, portions of his ruling will continue to be stayed pending appeal.


Contact Info

Erik Roldan 312-663-4413 ext. 359; Cell: 312-545-8140; Email: eroldan@lambdalegal.org Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.