Judge strikes down part of Ohio gay marriage law

by Amanda Lee Myers | Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal judge said Friday that he will order Ohio to recognize out-of-state gay marriages, a move that strikes down part of the state's ban on gay marriages but stops short of forcing it to perform same-sex weddings.

Judge Timothy Black announced his intentions in federal court in Cincinnati following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban.

"I intend to issue a declaration that Ohio's recognition bans, that have been relied upon to deny legal recognition to same-sex couples validly entered in other states where legal, violates the rights secured by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Black said. "(They're) denied their fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married."

Black said he'll issue the ruling April 14. The civil rights attorneys who filed the February lawsuit did not ask Black to order the state to perform gay marriages, and he did not say he would do so.

Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Federal judges have also struck down bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia, and ordered Kentucky and Tennessee to recognize out-of-stategay marriages, though stays have been issued pending appeals.

Pam and Nicole Yorksmith, a Cincinnati couple who married in California in 2008 and have a 3-year-old son, were among the four couples who filed the lawsuit challenging the gay marriage ban and said Black's comments Friday gave them validation.

"It also validates to our kids that we're bringing into our marriage that their parents are recognized by the state that we live in, and that's extremely important," Pam Yorksmith said. "We're teaching kids of future generations that all families are different and just because our family doesn't look like your family doesn't mean that ours shouldn't be recognized."

Nicole Yorksmith is pregnant through artificial insemination with the couple's second child and is due in June.

The Cincinnati-based legal team asked Black to declare that Ohio's gay marriage ban is "facially unconstitutional, invalid and unenforceable," and indicated that following such a ruling, the window would be open for additional litigation seeking to force the state to allow gay couples to marry in Ohio.

"This is a serious problem at the basic level of human dignity," said civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, who argued that Black should strike down the entire marriage ban as well. "That human dignity is denied by the way Ohio treats same-sex couples. This is central to our whole commitment as a nation to equality."

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio's attorney general, said the state will appeal Black's order when it comes out but declined to comment further.

Attorneys for the state argued that it's Ohio's sole province to define marriage as between a man and a woman, that the statewide gay marriage ban doesn't violate any fundamental rights, and that attorneys improperly expanded their originally narrow lawsuit.

"Ohio has made its own decision regarding marriage, deciding to preserve the traditional definition," state's attorneys argued in court filings ahead of Friday's hearing.

They argued that striking down the law would "disregard the will of Ohio voters, and undercut the democratic process."

Black didn't say why he made the announcement on his ruling before he issues it. But by stating his intention ahead of his ruling, Black gave time for the state to prepare an appeal that can be filed as soon as he does.

In December, Black issued a much narrower ruling that forced Ohio to recognize gay marriage on death certificates. He indicated at that time that the marriage ban was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The state appealed that ruling, and the case is pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

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  • Eich Is Out. So Is Tolerance.
    Ryan T. Anderson
    April 3, 2014

    Mozilla Corp. co-founder Brendan Eich has resigned as CEO after a week of public pressure stemming from a campaign contribution he made six years ago. Eich supported the wrong cause; he supported California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

    For some who favor the redefinition of marriage, tolerance appears to have been a useful rhetorical device along the way to eliminating dissent.

    Eich, on the other hand, seems to have been quite tolerant. As Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, commenting on the development, said of  Eich’s 15 years at Mozilla: "I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness.”

    The outrageous treatment of Eich  is the result of one private, personal campaign contribution to support marriage as a male-female union, a view affirmed at the time by President Barack Obama, then-Sen.  Hillary Clinton, and countless other prominent officials. After all, Prop 8 passed with the support of 7 million California voters.

    So was President Obama a bigot back when he supported marriage as the union of a man and woman? And is characterizing political disagreement on this issue—no matter how thoughtfully expressed—as hate speech really the way to find common ground and peaceful co-existence?

    Sure, the employees of Mozilla—which makes Firefox, the popular Internet browser— have the right to protest a CEO they dislike, for whatever reason. But are they treating their fellow citizens with whom they disagree civilly? Must every political disagreement be a capital case regarding the right to stand in civil society?

    When Obama “evolved” on the issue just over a year ago, he insisted that the debate about marriage was legitimate. He said there are people of goodwill on both sides.

    Supporters of marriage as we’ve always understood it (a male-female union) “are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective,” Obama explained. “They’re coming at it because they care about families.”

    And “a bunch of ‘em are friends of mine,” the president added. “… you know, people who I deeply respect.”

    Yet disrespect and intolerance seem increasingly to be the norm. For the forces that have worked for 20 years to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions, a principal strategy has been cultural intimidation—bullying others by threatening the stigma of being “haters” and “bigots.”

    Unwilling to acknowledge this as a significant question on which reasonable people of goodwill can disagree, some advocates of redefining marriage increasingly characterize those with whom they disagree as “enemies of the human race.” They’ve sent a clear message: If you stand up for marriage, we will demonize and marginalize you.

    In a series of instances we have seen the gatekeepers of civil society attack those who hold the view that marriage is between a man and a woman —Chick-fil-A, Barilla Pasta, Craig James (who was fired from ESPN), and “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson.

    This kind of grotesque incivility is toxic for any democratic community. We can—we must—do better.
    This debate is over the fundamental institution concerned with child welfare, and it deserves to be a robust one.  Marriage is how societies from time immemorial have united a man and woman as husband and wife, to be mother and father to any children born of their union.

    Those in favor of redefining marriage should refuse to participate in campaigns of intimidation. Reject the strategy of demonizing opponents. Call out friends when they bully those who stand up for the historic understanding of marriage.

    We can all agree with President Obama that Americans on both sides are worthy of respect.

    Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage. Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating in tax policy, employment, licensing, accreditation, or contracting against such groups and individuals.

    Christian adoption agencies already have been forced out of serving children because they believe orphans deserve a mom and a dad. Forcing out these agencies doesn’t help those orphans, and it doesn’t help our society. We need as many adoption agencies as possible.

    Other cases include a photographer, a baker, a florist, a bed-and-breakfast, a T-shirt company, a student counselor, the Salvation Army, and more. In each of these instances, there were plenty of other businesses available that were willing to provide similar services.

    The debate over the meaning and purpose of marriage will continue. We should conduct it in a civil manner. Bullies may win for a while, but theirs is a scorched-earth policy. They poison democratic discourse and fray the bonds on which democracy itself ultimately depends.

    Even those who disagree with each other about morally charged issues of public policy need to be able to live together.

    http://blog.heritage.org/2014/04/03/eich-tolerance/