[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] in favor of two men seeking recognition of their out-of-state same-sex marriage. Ohio law prohibits same-sex marriage but recognizes marriages solemnized outside of the state. James Obergefell and his partner, John Arthur, who suffers from a terminal illness, married legally in Maryland earlier this month and returned to Ohio where they have resided for nearly 20 years. Arthur seeks to include Obergefell as his surviving spouse on his death certificate. The parties, accordingly, filed suit requesting that the court preliminarily enjoin enforcement of Ohio’s same-sex marriage prohibition. The plaintiffs were required to show, among other things, a substantial likelihood that they would prevail on the merits at trial. The court granted their motion Tuesday, finding:
In derogation of law, the Ohio scheme has unjustifiably created two tiers of couples: (1) opposite-sex married couples legally married in other states; and (2) same-sex married couples legally married in other states. This lack of equal protection of law is fatal. … Plaintiffs have established a substantial likelihood that they will prevail at trial on their claim that by treating lawful same sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sex marriages Ohio law, as applied here, violates the United States Constitution which guarantees that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.”
According to media sources, the decision is likely to encourage [AP report] same-sex couples to challenge restrictive marriage laws in other states.
The heated debate over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing issues currently facing the American legal community. Last week the San Diego County Clerk filed a petition [JURIST report] with the Supreme Court of California on Friday seeking to require county clerks to enforce Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. Earlier in July three same-sex couples filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban. The plaintiffs argue that Amendment 83 to the Arkansas Constitution, which reads, “Marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman,” violates their rights to equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. Also in July, the Supreme Court of California rejected [JURIST report] a request from Proposition 8 supporters to halt same-sex marriages.