Gay marriage still technically illegal in Ohio: Bill attempts to fix that

Even though the state has allowed same-sex marriages since 2015 due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Ohio law and state’s constitution still outlaw the practice. Democrats have recently renewed an effort to update that law.

“It’s something that’s long overdue in Ohio,” said state Rep. Jodi Whitted, D-Madeira, who submitted House Bill 636 to the Ohio House in late June.

The bill is a repeat of former Democrat efforts that were largely ignored. It would revoke Ohio’s current law that maintains that “a marriage may only be entered into by one man and one woman” and change it to read that “a marriage may only be entered into by two persons.”

H.B. 636 would also get rid of several paragraphs in Ohio’s law that state, for example, that “any marriage between persons of the same sex is against the strong public policy” of Ohio, or that no legal benefits of such a marriage shall be extended by the state.

The bill would also add in protections for interracial marriages — another type of marriage that, despite historical resistance, was legalized by federal supreme court.

Despite the state’s constitution and code forbidding same-sex marriages, Ohio has recognized the practice since 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a narrow ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges (which stemmed from Ohio) and found that same-sex marriages were protected under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

This precedent makes H.B. 636 more about a public display of approval for same-sex marriages rather than a necessary change in the way those marriages are recognized or protected, said Marc Clauson, a constitutional scholar and professor at Cedarville University.

Despite the bill not necessarily changing status quo, Whitted argued that updating state law to have it approve of same-sex marriages is still critical.

“This would be a win that is just very much needed for this group of people and to show that the lawmakers in this state value the LGBTQ+ people who live in Ohio,” said Whitted, who noted that she’s viewed much of the legislature’s work this year to be anti-LGBTQ+.

Whitted also said she believes it’s important to have Ohio’s laws reflect the values of modern Ohio voters.

In 2004, 61.7% of Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment that made it fundamental law in Ohio that “only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions.”

Though that amendment is still on the books, it wouldn’t impact H.B. 636 if it were to pass, according to Clauson, who noted that federal constitutional rulings supersede state constitutions themselves.

Whitted’s bill has not yet been given a hearing and faces an uphill battle in the Ohio House, which has given the cold shoulder to similar bills in the past. She noted that she’s reliant upon the Republican supermajority for anything to get done on it.

“I am just sort of generally a hopeful person,” Whitted said. “But truthfully, I’m hoping to be surprised.”

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Avery Kreemer can be reached at 614-981-1422, on X, via email, or you can drop him a comment/tip with the survey below.

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