On Friday, Judge Timothy Black of the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] ruled that a lawsuit seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages on Ohio death certificates could continue. The ruling [AP report] was centered around whether a funeral director, Robert Grunn, could remain a plaintiff in the case and have the eventual ruling be applicable statewide. Black ruled that despite the fact that the Grunn's constitutional rights were not directly affected, he could remain a party because of his potential future interests from the resulting ruling. Had Grunn been removed as a party, the lawsuit would have only affected the two specific couples seeking to have their marriages recognized on their deceased spouses' death certificates. Black had expanded the lawsuit in September and had ruled in July and September [JURIST reports] that the surviving same-sex spouses should be listed as spouses on death certificates because their marriages were valid under the laws of the states where they were performed. Black is expected to rule on the broader issue by the end of the year.
The heated debate over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing issues currently facing the American legal community. Earlier this week, a Colorado same-sex couple filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking a marriage license. Also this week, a Missouri court denied [JURIST report] same-sex partner survivor benefits. In October, JURIST Guest Columnist Theodore Seto argued the fallout from the US v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] decision is only beginning to show the role state governments will have [JURIST op-ed] in state constitutional modification, in addition to the possibility that a same-sex marriage case will reach the US Supreme Court in the future. In September a Kentucky judge issued a ruling in the opposite direction, holding that partners in a same-sex couple must testify against one another [JURIST report] because same-sex partners are not protected by the husband-wife privilege under state law.