Ohio voters decided to
ban gay marriage in 2004, overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment that denied recognition to any same-sex union. But that might not be the final word on the matter, it appears.
A ruling this week by a federal judge in Cincinnati could open the door to a legal challenge to the Ohio ban, based on the Supreme Court's decision to overturn part of a federal ban on gay marriages. And it appears that a bid to end the ban on gay vows is headed for a statewide vote in 2014.
Judge Timothy White ruled Monday that Ohio's ban is unconstitutional and designed "to disparage and demean the dignity of same-sex couples in the eyes of the state and the wider community." While he didn't toss out the ban entirely, his action could lay the groundwork for further legal action seeking an end to it.
White's ruling was issued in a case involving recognition of gay marriages on death certificates issued in Ohio for those who exchange same-sex vows in states with marriage equality. "Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away," he wrote.
Ohio's vote to ban gay marriage -- the constitutional amendment passed by a 62 percent margin -- means little, White indicated. "The fact that a form of discrimination has been 'traditional' is a reason to be more skeptical of its rationality."
Attorney General Mike DeWine says he will appeal White's ruling, because "the state's job is to defend the Ohio Constitution and state statutes."
Ohio is one of three states in which judicial rulings were issued this week in favor of same-sex marriage. The others were New Mexico, where the state's Supreme Court approved gay marriages, making it the 18th to adopt marriage equality, and Utah, where a ruling in favor of gay marriage stunned conservatives there. Court challenges are likely in all three instances.
Ohioans also could find themselves confronting gay marriage again at the polls next fall, 10 years after the ban on same-sex unions appeared on the ballot. FreedomOhio, which is seeking to repeal the ban, says it has collected enough signatures to place the measure before voters. What seems to have been "setlled" at the polls a decade ago apparently isn't.