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Ohio couple challenges state law denying same-sex marriage

Couple wants terminally ill spouse's death certificate to show him as 'married'
Saturday, July 20, 2013
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CINCINNATI — Two Ohio men have filed a federal lawsuit alleging Ohio violates the U.S. Constitution by denying legal recognition to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal.

James Obergefell and John Arthur of Cincinnati filed the lawsuit Friday in Cincinnati against Ohio’s governor, attorney general and the Cincinnati health department registrar who files death certificates.

Earlier this month, the two men, one of whom is terminally ill, married on an airport tarmac in Baltimore after receiving donations from friends, family and other connections to cover the cost of a $12,700 chartered, medically-equipped private plane.

Jim Obergefell (left) and John Arthur (right) marry on a medically equipped jet on the tarmac at Baltimore-Washington Airport in Gen Burnie, Md., on July 11. Arthur’s aunt, Paulette Roberts (center) officiated the wedding.

Arthur is bedridden with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a progressive neurological disease that robs patients of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe. There is no known cure or treatment today that halts or reverses ALS (also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

The couple wants Arthur’s eventual death certificate to show his status as married.

The lawsuit says the men want the court to rule Ohio’s law and constitution violate their rights including equal protection.

Ohio’s law is “blatant discrimination,” said the couple’s attorney Al Gerhardstein. “It’s a denial of equal protection.”

The suit points to an example of a marriage between first cousins. In Ohio, it is illegal. But if first cousins go to another state and marry where it is legal, Ohio will recognize their out of state marriage as valid.

“We want nothing more than for our marriage to count in the place we call home,” Obergefell said in a statement. “When (Arthur) dies, his death certificate should reflect our marriage just like the records of all the other married couples in Ohio.”

Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman declined comment on pending litigation except to say Kasich believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

Messages left for the other defendants weren’t returned.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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