Obergefell v. Wymyslo
On July 19, 2013, private lawyers 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.
Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson commented on the ruling, saying, "With John Arthur on his deathbed, he and his beloved, James Obergefell, literally had to charter a plane and fly to get married elsewhere on American soil because their home state of Ohio cruelly denies them the freedom to marry at home. No couple should be forced to leave home to make legal their love and commitment to each other, and as a federal court this week rightly affirmed, no couple should suffer the indignity of returning home only to be told, ‘Your marriage doesn’t matter here.' Every day of denial is a day of massive unfairness and cruel hardship, and we know that Ohio – and America – can and must do better."
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. Wymyslo
On February 10, 2014, private lawyers filed a federal lawsuit in Ohio on behalf of four same-sex couples who adopted children in Ohio. The lawsuit challenges 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.
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.
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.
- INITIAL COMPLAINT: 'Cowger and Wesley v. Kasich'
- MOTION: For Temporary Restraining Order in 'Henry v. Wymyslo'
- INITIAL COMPLAINT: 'Henry v. Wymyslo'
- APPEAL: 'Obergefell v. Wymyslo'
- FINAL ORDER: 'Obergefell v. Wymyslo'
- DECLARATORY JUDGMENT AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION: 'Obergefell v. Wymyslo'
- MOTION GRANTED: For Temporary Restraining Order in 'Obergefell v. Wymyslo'
- MEET THE PLAINTIFFS: 'Obergefell v. Wymyslo'
- BACKGROUND: The Freedom to Marry in Ohio