(Photo: REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)
A federal judge in Cincinnati said Friday that he will strike down as unconstitutional Ohio's voter-approved ban on recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples from other states. The state plans to appeal the ruling once it is issued.
"I intend to issue a written decision and order by April 14, striking down as unconstitutional under all circumstances Ohio's bans on recognizing legal same-sex marriages from other states," U.S. District Judge Timothy Black said in a statement.
The plaintiffs are four same-sex couples who got married in other states and are seeking to be recognized as parents on their children's birth certificates.
"I intend to issue a declaration that Ohio's recognition bans, that have been relied upon to deny legal recognition to same-sex couples validly entered in other states where legal, violates the rights secured by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," the judge said, adding that same-sex couples are "denied their fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married."
"It also validates to our kids that we're bringing into our marriage that their parents are recognized by the state that we live in, and that's extremely important," Pam Yorksmith, one of the plaintiffs, told AP. "We're teaching kids of future generations that all families are different and just because our family doesn't look like your family doesn't mean that ours shouldn't be recognized."
"For same sex couples who have struggled to secure equal rights this is a great day," said attorney Al Gerhardstein.
The judge did not mention Ohio's ban on gay couples marrying within the state. Last December, the same judge asked Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other states on death certificates.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will be prepared to appeal the impending ruling, according to spokesman Dan Tierney.
Attorneys for Ohio had argued that the state alone has the jurisdiction to define marriage. State's voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 acknowledging that the definition of marriage was the union between one man and one woman.
The National Organization for Marriage criticized the judge's intention. "This is an affront to the rule of law and to the people of Ohio who voted overwhelmingly to define marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman," Brian Brown, the group's president, said in a statement.
Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Federal judges in a few states have struck down state amendments and laws banning gay marriage as unconstitutional ever since the U.S. Supreme Court last June squashed a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. They have revoked bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia, and ordered Kentucky and Tennessee to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. However, stays have been issued pending appeals.