By AMANDA LEE MYERS
Ohio authorities on Thursday appealed a federal judge’s ruling that ordered them to recognize gay marriages on death certificates and criticized the state’s ban on such unions as demeaning “the dignity of same-sex couples in the eyes of the state and the wider community.”
The attorney general’s office filed its notice of appeal in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. A brief containing their arguments will be filed later.
The state is appealing federal Judge Timothy Black’s ruling last month, which said Ohio’s ban on gay marriage, passed by voters in 2004, is unconstitutional and that states cannot discriminate against same-sex couples simply because some voters don’t like homosexuality.
Though Black harshly criticized the gay marriage ban, his ruling was narrow and only applies to death certificates.
Attorney General Mike DeWine previously told The Associated Press he would be appealing.
“Our job is to defend the Ohio Constitution and state statutes … and that’s what we intend to do,” he said.
In the ruling, Black wrote that “once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away,” saying the right to remain married is recognized as a fundamental liberty in the U.S. Constitution.
“When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same-sex couple married in another jurisdiction, it intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court,” he wrote.
Black referenced Ohio’s historical practice of recognizing other out-of-state marriages even though they can’t legally be performed in Ohio, such as those involving cousins or minors.
Black’s decision stems from a lawsuit in July by two gay Ohio men whose spouses recently died and wanted to be recognized on their death certificates as married. The two couples got married over the summer in states that allow same-sex marriage.
Black said “there is absolutely no evidence that the state of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed” by his ruling but that without it, the harm would be severe for two men who filed the lawsuit because it would strip them of the dignity and recognition given to opposite-sex couples.
Two federal judges have reached the same conclusions as Black, though they went much further in their rulings. Judges in Oklahoma and Utah both recently struck down gay marriage bans in the deeply conservative states.