Post submitted by Wyatt Fore, HRC Law Fellow

Late yesterday, a federal district court judge in Ohio granted a temporary restraining order to an Ohio couple, John Arthur and Jim Obergefell, who are seeking to be recognized as a legally married couple under Ohio law for purposes of obtaining a death certificate. This order affects only the plaintiffs in the present case, Obergefell v. Kasich.

Only weeks ago, Arthur, bedridden from advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as ALS), and Obergefell chartered a medically equipped plane to fly from Cincinnati to Baltimore to fulfill Arthur’s dying wish to be legally married. The temporary restraining order specifically requires that the local Ohio Registrar of Death Certificates must accept Arthur’s marital status as “married,” and must list Obergefell as “surviving spouse” on Arthur’s death certificate.

In the order, District Judge Timothy Black heavily cites the recent Supreme Court decision United States v. Windsor, as well as the landmark 1996 decision Romer v. Evans, finding that Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage implicates federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.  Judge Black further states: “. . . the Ohio scheme has unjustifiably created two tiers of couples: (1) opposite-sex marriage couples legally married in other states; and (2) same-sex marriage couples married in other states. This lack of equal protection of law is fatal.”

The State of Ohio has not yet indicated whether it will appeal this order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, but it is likely to do so.  A spokesman for Ohio Governor John Kasich told reporters,“We don't comment on pending litigation other than to say the that the governor believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.”   

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