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Government and Politics

Federal judge continues to block his own gay marriage ruling in Ohio
The order that Ohio recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states is heading to the 6th Circuit Cort of Appeals, so only the four couples directly affected will be immediately impacted by the decision

Jo Ingles
Although federal Judge Tim Black says he believes Ohio should recognize legal gay marriages, he continues to block his ruling from taking effect.
Courtesy of United States District Court
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The federal judge who earlier this week ruled Ohio must recognize gay marriage will continue to block that ruling from taking effect for most Ohioans. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles has more.
LISTEN: Federal judge can't block four families suing Ohio

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Federal Judge Timothy Black says he thinks Ohio should recognize legal gay marriages performed in other states.  But he continued to block that ruling from taking effect while the state appeals to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Black will, however, allow the four gay couples who want to be listed as parents on their children’s birth certificates to do that.

Dan Tierney with the Ohio Attorney General’s office says this ruling was expected.

“The state had requested that Judge Black stay his order with the exception of the named plaintiffs' requests for birth certificates. The judge seems to have granted that request in full.”

Tierney says the attorney general’s office did not fight to keep the four couples from being named on the birth certificates, so he says those documents could be issued soon.

“Three of the four couples are expecting. One couple are adoptive parents. So the issue of them getting the documents at this time may not be right as the births have not occurred for the majority of the named plaintiffs.”

An important step
Al Gerhardstein, the attorney who represents the four couples in this case, sees this ruling as a positive step forward for gay couples in Ohio.

“For at least these four couples, Ohio is a very affirming place, a place where their families are going to be valued.  ... The birth certificates of their children are going to list both parents and that’s very exciting. The implementation of same sex marriage recognition more broadly is going to be delayed but we will try to expedite the appeals process so full marriage recognition for all same-sex couples doesn’t trail very far behind.”

American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Spokesman Nick Worner is also excited about this ruling.

“I think we are a step closer. The appellate court process is a slow process. The Supreme Court process is a slow process. But this is a really historic moment and it marks the beginning of something very exciting, I hope.”

A wish for more time
A Columbus-area lawyer had hoped there would have been some time between this ruling and the point at which a stay was granted by the 6th Circuit. Carol Fey had hoped to use that window to file paperwork to ask the courts to allow her and her partner to adopt the children they have raised. While they have a legal agreement in place for years, they have never been, under Ohio law, able to adopt their children.

“We operate internally as a family, but there are things that, legally speaking, don't work very well until you can have both parents be legally recognized by parents, and that takes adoption.”

Jonathan Entin is a political science and law professor at Case Western Reserve University. He says while the judge’s ruling in this case only affects these four couples, other couples in similar situations could use this ruling as a basis for future lawsuits.

“Anybody else who came in would presumably point to Judge Black’s ruling to say that his reasoning should control here, not because it is binding but simply because, those other folks will say, he got it right.”

An opponent of gay marriage says Judge Black is a liberal federal judge. Phil Burress thinks the state has a good shot of winning the appeal in this case.

“When it gets to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, then we will have judges who will interpret the law, not legislate from the bench.”

There is no timetable for when the appeals court will take up the case.

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