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Federal Judge: Ohio gay marriage ban unconstitutional

CINCINNATI (Angenette Levy) -- A federal judge struck down part of Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage Monday in a 45-page ruling in which he called the ban "unconstitutional".

The ruling also included a song about Adoption Day.  Judge Timothy Black wrote that the ban is, "unenforceable under any circumstances."  The ruling does not require the state of Ohio to perform same-sex marriage. It only requires the state to recognize marriages that were performed in states in which gay marriage is legal.

The ruling and order stem from a case involving four same-sex couples that had been married in other states.  Brittani Henry and Brittni Rogers are plaintiffs.  They and three other couples asked Judge Black to allow both of their names to appear on their son's birth certificate.  Jayseon Rogers will be born next month. 

Under Ohio's current law, only Henry's name can be listed on the document because she is the birth mother. Judge Black's ruling would allow Rogers' name to be printed on the document.

"We would have to go through a lot if it wasn't for her being able to sign the birth certificate. There's another whole process and there's a lot of documents that she would have to carry to say hey, this is my son," Henry said. 

Rogers said she was excited by the decision.  "I'm his mother as well. He just has two mothers."

Ohio voters approved the ban on same-sex marriage in 2004 by a vote of 62% to 38%. Citizens for Community Values led the effort to pass the ban. The group's president, Phil Burress, accused Judge Black of "legislating from the bench."

"He's one judge striking down the will of 3 million voters. Wait until we get to the Sixth Circuit. Then we'll take this case more seriously. He's an activist judge and he loves the limelight," Burress said.

Burress said his organization just completed internal polling that showed 56% of Ohioans still oppose gay marriage. He believes supporters have gone to the courts because they know they cannot win at the ballot box.
 
"They're bullies. They're pushing people around and people are getting fed up. They made it sound like it's all about same sex marriage, two people wanting to get married. They don't realize that in Massachusetts for example, when same sex marriage was legalized it was in the public schools in first grade the next year, talking about same sex marriage and homosexuality as being normal," Burress added.

Proponents of same-sex marriage had contemplated placing an issue on the ballot this year to repeal the ban.  Freedom to Marry Ohio submitted revised ballot language to the Attorney General's Office earlier this month for a ballot intiative entitled "Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment."  Attorney General Mike DeWine said Monday the group had submitted a "fair and truthful" statement of the proposed law.  Additional signatures would be required to place the initiative on the ballot.  But some gay advocacy groups want to wait until 2016 to place an issue on the ballot.

"It's a great thing for the state, it's a great thing for the people in our step and we look forward to the steps forward," said Steve Newsome, of the Human Rights Campaign. Newsome believes Monday's decision could be the beginning of the end of Ohio's ban.

"As a lifelong Cincinnatian, I want to make sure that I can get married in the city, in the state in which I was born and that I live in. So we're going to continue fighting."

The State of Ohio will appeal Black's decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. It could move to the U.S. Supreme Court after that.
Judge Black has stayed his order. He's asking both sides to respond in writing before deciding whether he will stay the order throughout the entire appeals process.  He's indicated he'll allow the couples in the suit to list both parents names on the birth certificates while the appeal moves through the courts.

The last page of Judge Black's ruling includes the lyrics to a song entitled "Happy Adoption Day." One verse states:  No matter the time and no matter the age/ No matter how you came to be/ No matter the skin, we are all of us kin/ We are all of us one family.
The song was written by John McCulcheon


Follow Angenette Levy on Twitter @angenette5 and LIKE her on Facebook


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