Same-sex couples in Cincinnati file lawsuit challenging Ohio’s marriage ban

This morning, same-sex couples in Cincinnati filed Gibson v. Himes, a federal lawsuit challenging Ohio’s constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of six couples who want to marry in Ohio, is the first case to directly challenge the state’s marriage ban and is being brought forth by Gerhardstein & Branch Co. - the same firm that secured a favorable ruling on behalf of gay and lesbian parents seeking to have both parents’ names on the birth certificates of their adopted children.

In filing the lawsuit this morning, lead counsel Jennifer Branch said:

“The couples in this case are in love and deeply committed. They want to get married. Some have been engaged for years but cannot marry here, at home, surrounded by family and friends, because Ohio forbids it. Ohio’s unequal treatment of these couples is unconstitutional and cannot continue. Nobody’s constitutional rights can be voted away.”

Michelle Gibson and Deb Meem, lead plaintiffs in the case, have been together for more than 20 years and both are currently dealing with severe medical issues. Michelle suffers from MS, while Deb is currently in New Mexico and unable to travel as her mother is under hospice care. Despite her progressive case of MS, Michelle told reporters today, “I didn’t know whether I had the stamina right now to do it. But, then I decided that I did want to do it.”

Other plaintiff couples, like Ethan Fletcher and Andrew Hickam, are recently engaged and don’t want to have to leave Ohio - the state they both call home - in order to marry. Ethan added, “We want to commit to a marriage ceremony before our family and our friends and we don’t want to have to drive out to Iowa or Illinois to get a marriage license.” 

This lawsuit comes on the heels of historic progress for marriage in the courts in Ohio. On April 14th, Judge Timothy Black struck down part of Ohio’s marriage ban, ruling in favor of same-sex couples in Henry v. Himes who sought respect for their legal marriages performed out-of-state. The judge issued a stay in the ruling as Attorney General Mike DeWine decides whether or not to file an appeal. A separate case, Obergefell v. Himes, where Judge Black ruled that Ohio must respect marriages of same-sex couples for the purpose of listing both spouses on death certificates, is currently in the briefing process before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Unlike Henry v. Himes or Obergefell v. Himes, which challenged Ohio's refusal to respect marriages performed in other states, today’s lawsuit goes one step further by challenging the heart of Ohio’s marriage ban that denies same-sex couples the right to receive marriage licenses in the state they call home.

The lawsuit joins 66 other lawsuits in 31 other states/territories where same-sex couples are making the case for why marriage matters to all families. Read all about marriage litigation HERE.

Read more about marriage litigation in Ohio here.