In July, an Ohio couple traveled to Maryland to get married. It was not a fancy wedding; in fact, the ceremony took place on a plane on the tarmac of a Baltimore airport. By the time the two were married, they had been together for over 20 years. One spouse has a terminal illness and does not want to be listed as single on his death certificate. In addition, the two want to be buried in the same family plot, which is only available for direct descendants and spouses. Because the couple is a same-sex couple, they are not able to get married in their home state of Ohio.
Bringing suit in federal court
After their marriage in Maryland, the two men returned to Ohio where they filed suit against Governor John Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine and a Cincinnati doctor who is responsible for signing death certificates, according to Cincinnati.com. They sought to have the rights they received by their marriage in Maryland recognized in Ohio, and are fighting for its immediate recognition because one of the spouses has ALS and perhaps only a few weeks to live.
A federal judge in Ohio granted their request for a temporary restraining order, which will allow their marriage to be recognized for the purpose of permitting the death certificate to reflect their status as spouses for the burial. A temporary restraining order is a court order of limited duration. A party may obtain such an order by convincing the judge that he or she will suffer immediate irreparable harm unless the order is issued.
The judge who granted the order was swayed by several arguments put forward by the couple’s attorney. The judge noted that Ohio does recognize some marriages from other states that would be prohibited in Ohio, including marriages between first cousins and marriages between people who are too young to marry in the state. He saw no reason for the state to recognize those marriages that were lawful in the states in which they occurred, while not acknowledging same-sex marriages lawfully performed in other jurisdictions.
The order is specific only to this couple, and it does not change the state’s laws on same-sex marriage. Spokespersons from the Attorney General’s office point out that this is a temporary ruling at the preliminary stage of a case. In addition, the A.G.’s office notes that the voters of the State of Ohio made their case against same-sex marriage in 2004 when they passed a constitutional amendment banning it.
On August 13, the judge entered an extension of the temporary restraining order. Oral arguments are scheduled for December. At this time, the judge will decide whether to issue a permanent order against the state.
This case has as its basis a unique set of circumstances, and the couple’s attorneys employed some creative legal tactics to argue their point. If you have questions about a family law issue, you may wish to contact an experienced lawyer to learn more about your options.