Ohio AG approves proposed constitutional amendment to overturn gay marriage ban

[JURIST] Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine [official website] determined [press release] on Monday that a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would overturn its current ban on gay marriage had obtained the requisite number of signatures and satisfied the requirement that it be a "fair and truthful statement of the proposed law." The proposed amendment, entitled the "Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment," would replace Article XV, Section 11 [text] of the Ohio constitution, which currently states that Ohio will only recognize a marriage between a man and a woman and will not recognize any form of civil union. The proposed amendment still requires several steps before it will be put to a vote. The Ohio Ballot Board will now determine if it contains any significant issues, and then it must obtain signatures in at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties. The total number of signatures must also equal at least 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the state's last gubernatorial election. The revised language was introduced [Cleveland.com report] by the advocacy group FreedomOhio, [advocacy website], replacing a previous exemption for "religious institutions" with one for "houses of worship" after receiving criticism from other advocacy groups that the ill-defined exemption could potentially allow important institutions such as religiously affiliated hospitals to deny rights to same-sex couples. The original petition had collected enough signatures to be put on the November ballot, but FreedomOhio elected [Cleveland.com report] to support the new petition in hopes that some groups alienated by the previous language would support the measure in its present version.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial issue in the United States, with only 17 states currently allowing them to be performed. On Monday, the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] ruled that Ohio must begin to recognize [JURIST report] same-sex marriages legally performed in another state, finding that refusal to do so violates the Due Process, Equal Protection and Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the US Constitution. The ruling satisfies previous promises [JURIST report] made by Justice Timothy Black to overturn the state's ban on the recognition of out of state marriages, though he has been careful when addressing the issue of same-sex couples being married within the state. Black has issued similar rulings in the past, such as a more limited decision in December that out-of-state legally performed same-sex marriages must be recognized on Ohio death certificates, prompting promises [JURIST report] by the Ohio AG to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website].

 

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