CINCINNATI, Ohio–Today, the ACLU of Ohio, American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and private firm Gerhardstein & Branch filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ aberrant ruling upholding discriminatory bans on marriage rights for same-sex couples in Ohio and three other states.
The Sixth Circuit is the only federal circuit court after the Supreme Court’s watershed 2013 Windsor ruling to uphold such bans and its decision departs from recent decisions from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, which have led to the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in many more states throughout the country. The joint filing covers two lawsuits filed by Gerhardstein & Branch: Obergefell v. Hodges, joined by the ACLU, seeking to order the State to issue accurate death certificates when one member of a married same-sex couple dies and Henry v. Hodges, joined by Lambda Legal, seeking to compel the State of Ohio to recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples and issue accurate birth certificates to the adopted children of married same-sex couples.
In Obergefell v. Hodges, the state appealed a federal court ruling that Ohio must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states for the purpose of listing surviving spouses on death certificates.
“Marriage inequality has gone on far too long,” said Christine Link, executive director for the ACLU of Ohio. “Our country is ready for it to change. A growing majority of the public supports marriage equality and, since DOMA was overturned, dozens of courts have ruled in favor of equality for loving and committed same-sex couples. As we wait and hope for the Supreme Court to strike down marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, we will continue to seek to end discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. Let’s hope their long wait for justice ends soon. We won’t stop fighting until it does.”
"It's profoundly unfair for Ohio to tell these couples that their lawful marriages meant nothing and that their spouses are legal strangers. When you're married, you're married, no matter whether you travel or move to another state," said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project. "The country needs a uniform rule on respect for marriage, and the Supreme Court can and should make that happen."
Henry v. Hodges was filed in February 2014. All plaintiff couples are seeking recognition of their marriages for all purposes, from respect for their parentage of their children to how they must pay their taxes. Most urgently, they seek accurate birth certificates naming both spouses as the parents of their babies. The Ohio Department of Health, the agency charged with issuing birth certificates whose Director is the Defendant in the case, refused to issue or amend birth certificates for same-sex parents.
"We look forward to presenting our arguments on behalf of our plaintiff families and all Ohio same-sex couples in front of the highest court in the land," said Al Gerhardstein, Attorney for Gerhardstein & Branch. "With more than 64% of the US population residing in a state where same-sex couples have marriage equality, we must ensure that all those same-sex marriages are recognized when the cross into Ohio."
Both Henry and Hodges demonstrate the importance of marriage to families from the cradle to the grave, from the birth of their children through the death of a spouse and beyond.
"We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling shines a spotlight on our divided country, where married same-sex couples are either respected or discriminated against, depending on where they live or even where they travel," said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal. "As we have learned from other historic cases likeLoving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas, there comes a time when the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in, and provides the answer--on the question of marriage for same-sex couples we believe that time has come."
Read today’s filing here:
Read more about Obergefell v. Hodges on ACLU’s case page here:
Read more about Henry v. Hodges on Lambda Legal’s case page here:
More information from Gerhardstein & Branch is available at:
In August, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also heard arguments in five more cases challenging discriminatory marriage laws in every state in the Circuit, including cases Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee in addition to Ohio.