Obergefell v. Wymyslo

What's Happening:

On August 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit will hear oral arguments in the appeal of this case, in which U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex spouses for the purpose of issuing death certificates in December 2013. The briefing schedule has been set, and both the appellants and appellees have filed their briefs. Read the state of Ohio's opening brief to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals HERE. And read the plaintiffs' opening brief HERE

Case Background:

On July 19, 2013, private lawyers from Gerhardstein & Branch Co., LPA and Newman & Meeks Co., LPA and later joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a federal lawsuit in the 6th Circuit on behalf of John Arthur and James Obergefell seeking legal respect for their marriage, which they celebrated in Maryland on July 11, in their home state of Ohio. John was dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and the couple wanted to have their marriage respected in their state so that when John passed away, his marriage to James could appear on his death certificate.

Two days later, Judge Timothy Black ordered state officials in Ohio to respect the couple's marriage on Arthur’s death certificate, granting the couple's motion for an emergency temporary restraining order. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine defended Ohio's laws, and lawyers for the vital statistics registrar of Cincinnati explained that while they will not defend the laws, they must follow the law until it is changed or overturned.

In September, Judge Black ordered the state to respect the marriage of a second couple, David Michener and William Herbert Ives, who married in Delaware before William unexpectedly passed away. In order to proceed with the burial of his husband’s ashes, David knew that death certificate must be issued, but under state law, the certificate listing David as a surviving spouse could not be issued. Judge Black’s temporary restraining order allowed David to be listed as William’s spouse on the certificate.

In both cases, the judge’s ruling was a temporary measure allowing the ailing or deceased spouses to have their marriages recognized on their death certificates. The lawsuit seeking to permanently overturn Ohio’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is still continuing.

On Monday, December 23, federal judge Timothy Black issued a ruling declaring that the state of Ohio must respect marriages between same-sex couples on death certificates issued by the state. 

The ruling, which found that Ohio laws banning same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional, applies only to the issuance of death certificates. It applies to all married same-sex couples in Ohio who want to be listed on the death certificates of their spouses. The ruling declares:

The Court's ruling today is a limited one, and states simply, that under the Constitution of the United States, Ohio must recognize valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples on Ohio death certificates, just as Ohio recognizes all other out-of-state marriages, if valid in the state performed, and even if not authorized or validly performed under Ohio law ... That is, once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot take your marriage away, because the right to remain married is properly recognized as a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. 

On January 16, 2014, the Attorney General in Ohio filed an appeal of the ruling. The appeal will be heard by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Henry v. Himes

What's Happening:

On August 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit will hear oral arguments in the appeal of this case, in which Judge Timothy Black ruled that Ohio must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states. The case originally only sought respect for their marriages for the purpose of being listed together on the birth certificates of their children, but the challenge was expanded. This suit was formerly titled Henry v. Wymyslo. Lambda Legal has joined private firms Gerhardstein & Branch Co., LPA and Newman & Meeks Co., LPA in the lawsuit. 

Upon issuing the ruling, Judge Black ordered a stay - meaning it does not take effect immediately - throughout the state of Ohio. The stay does not apply to the four plaintiff couples' original claim - that is, when the couples' children are born, both parents will be listed on the birth certificates. 

Case Background:

On February 10, 2014, private lawyers from Gerhardstein & Branch Co., LPA and Newman & Meeks Co., LPA, joined later by Lambda Legal, filed a federal lawsuit in Ohio on behalf of four same-sex couples who adopted children in Ohio. The lawsuit originally challenged an Ohio law that prevents same-sex couples from having both parents’ names appear on their children’s birth certificates. Under current law, only one parent in a same-sex relationship is permitted to be listed on a birth certificate for a child in Ohio.

Cincinnati attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein explained: "They seek to be treated the same as opposite-sex couples in their situations...All of the (couples) seek an order that will establish for children and parents in families established through same-sex marriages the same status and dignity enjoyed by children and parents in families established through opposite-sex marriages."

The plaintiffs include three couples who are due to become parents in June, with deliveries scheduled to take place in Cincinatti. The fourth couple lives in New York and wants their child's birth certificate to be amended to reflect both of parents' names. 

On April 4, Judge Timothy Black heard closing arguments in the case, where he announced his intention to rule that Ohio must respect the couples' marriages performed in other states. 

Gibson v. Himes

What's Happening:

On April 30, private lawyers from Gerhardstein & Branch Co., LPA and Newman & Meeks Co., LPA, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of six same-sex couples from Cincinnati seeking the freedom to marry in Ohio. The case urges a federal judge to strike down Ohio's ban on marriage for same-sex couples, following two federal court victories in cases that struck down parts of the Ohio marriage ban.

Case Background:

Lead counsel Jennifer Branch said about the case,"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."

The plaintiffs include six unmarried same-sex couples, including Michelle Gibson and Deb Meem, who are lead plaintiffs in the case. The women 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.”

Cowger and Wesley v. Kasich 


On February 19, 2014, private lawyers in Cincinatti filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a same-sex couple and their daughter who argue that Ohio laws denying legally married same-sex couples the protections of marriage are interfering with their attempts to enroll in family health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. On March 30, 2014, the couple dropped their case, having gained entry into family health care coverage. 

Case Background:

The plaintiffs are Alfred Cowger, Jr. and Anthony Wesley, Jr. of Gates Mills, Ohio, and they have been together since 1986. They married in New York in 2012, six years after adopting their daughter. 

Reuters explained: "After the family moved to the Cleveland area from Pennsylvania in 2010, the three were covered under the same non-group family health insurance policy purchased from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio. ... With Cowger starting to scale back his law practice in early 2013 and Wesley retired from his job as a chief financial officer, the couple faced reduced income and became interested in family coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

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