Two weeks ago a federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. That ruling is being appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court. Today one of the plaintiffs in that case joined in filing Ohio’s first full-on challenge to that state’s constitutional ban.
With the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, the state joins 14 others where state constitutional bans are being targeted as violations of the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment. Several couples are listed as plaintiffs in the case filed by Jennifer Branch of the Downtown-based law firm Gerhardstein & Branch. Her partner, Al Gerhardstein, this year won a narrower case to force Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. That ruling is being appealed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who told The Enquirer he will also fight this newest suit. Michelle Gibson, 52, is lead plaintiff in the new case. She and her partner Deb Meem have been together since 1995, when they met as professors at the University of Cincinnati, and want to get married. Gibson has multiple sclerosis and can no longer walk, making it difficult to travel to get married in a state where it’s legal.
Ohio is also appealing last year’s ruling that the state must recognize gay spouses on death certificates. DeWine reacts to today’s lawsuit: “We are going to do what we have to do. This would appear to be an incremental strategy. They started with the death certificate, then the birth certificate. Now we’re moving to the whole thing. It’s not unusual.”