[JURIST] Judge Timothy Black of the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] ruled [opinion, text] on Monday that Ohio authorities must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. The court found that the state's refusal to recognize such marriages violates the Due Process Clause, Equal Protection Clause and Full Faith and Credit Clause [Cornell LII backgrounders] of the US Constitution. This does not force Ohio to allow same-sex marriages to be performed within the state, but grants marital benefits, such as property rights, to couples married outside of the state. The order was a result of a lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by four same-sex couples who argued that the state's current allowance of only one partner from a same-sex marriage on a birth certificate is unconstitutional. The state plans to appeal the ruling, arguing that citizens of the state in 2004 overwhelmingly voted to ban same-sex marriage, giving Ohio a sovereign right to refuse recognition of these unions. Black has temporarily stayed his ruling [NPR report] as applied to everyone except for the four couples named in the lawsuit pending the appeal.
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most hotly debated topics in the US legal community today, made all the more contentious last year when the US Supreme Court [official website] struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act [text; JURIST news archive] in US v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report]. Earlier this month, Black had vowed [JURIST report] to overturn Ohio's ban on the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages with his opinion that was issued today. Black also paved the way for today's ruling when he ruled in December that the state must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates [JURIST report]. Currently, only 17 states allow legal same-sex marriages to be performed.