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Judge sides with Ohio couple; orders gay man listed as married on death certificate

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Updated: 9:30 p.m. EDT

A recently deceased gay Ohio man must be listed on his death certificate as married and his husband must be listed as his spouse despite Ohio’s gay marriage ban, a federal judge has ordered.

Judge Timothy Black’s order Tuesday came just hours after attorneys asked him to rule quickly so that William Herbert Ives, 54, is listed as married on his death certificate before being cremated on Wednesday.

“On this record, there is insufficient evidence of a legitimate state interest to justify this singling out of same-sex married couples given the severe and irreparable harm it imposes on David Michener,” Black wrote, pointing out that the request was made “to bring closure to the family in a manner that respects their marriage.”

Michener and Ives had been together for 18 years and have three adopted children. They married in Delaware on July 22, but Ives died unexpectedly a week ago.

Black is the same judge who issued an or der last month preventing state officials from enforcing their ban on gay marriage against another Cincinnati couple as one of them nears death.

That order prevents officials from recording John Arthur, who’s dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, as single on his death certificate and not listing his husband, James Obergefell, as his spouse. The pair married in Maryland in July.

The couple sued to have their out-of-state marriage recognized in Ohio before Arthur’s death so they can be listed as spouses on his death certificate and be buried next to each other in a cemetery that only allows descendants and spouses in family plots.

Black ruled that Arthur and Obergefell deserve to be treated with dignity and that Ohio law historically has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place, citing marriages between cousins and involving minors.

“How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, singl e out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?” Black wrote. “The short answer is that Ohio cannot.”

Arthur and Obergefell, both 47, say they’ve been in love for more than 20 years and “very much want the world to officially remember and record their union as a married couple,” according to their lawsuit.

Michener is joining that lawsuit, which the three men hope will “set a precedent that will lead to relief for other same-sex couples,” the lawsuit says.

Their attorney, Al Gerhardstein, has said that he plans to seek other benefits for his clients and other gay couples in Ohio, such as the ability to file joint tax returns.

Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman, Robert Nichols, said the office doesn’t comment on pending litigation, “except to say that the governor believes marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, did not return a request for comment Tuesday but said in July that DeWine’s off ice will defend the right of Ohioans to define marriage and that the U.S. Supreme Court has recently emphasized that it is a definition that traditionally lies with states.

“Ohio’s voters are entitled to the choice they have made on this fundamental issue,” he said.

Ohio banned gay marriage in 2004 with 62 percent of the vote.

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Filed under: Ohio

15 more reader comments:

  1. LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 4:48pm
  2. SMFH I live in Ohio as well and can’t stand it. If the economy weren’t so bad I would leave.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 4:49pm
  3. Yea well like it or not equality is coming to the world :p

    Replied on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 4:55pm
  4. It can't get here fast enough for me lol. Everyday I read the stories of the happy couples and can't have that same happiness because Ohio says "You are just roommates."

    Replied on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 5:55pm
  5. It shouldn’t even be debated. Why do we need to fight over anybody’s rights?

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 7:31pm
  6. The dam has broken, and this tide is irreversible. :)

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 7:53pm
  7. YES MA’AM!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 7:54pm
  8. thats good..now we need to get the ball rolling to allow us to get married in ohio.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 7:57pm
  9. So glad for the couple!

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10:50pm
  10. I second Ohio

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 11:28pm
  11. Will Indianaer ever come out of the dark ages

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 11:47pm
  12. Hope i can be acknowledged as partnered for life before i die.

    Posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 12:50am
  13. The bible is not a rule for everyone. My grandma is against homosexuals because “THE BIBLE SAYS-!!!” And it drives me crazy. I understand having your own beliefs but what does the constitution say..? FREEDOM of RELIGION. Religion has done a lot of good but it is doing a lot of harm. I am saving up to move to Canada because of their many freedoms that the United States may not have because religion is holding everyone back. That’s just my point of view I have been with my girlfriend since I was in 3rd grade and it kills me to know we may never be allowed to marry. We are in a marriageable state but you never know when it will change. Please, if you are against it (there probably won’t be any on this page, but just in case) I would personally like to ask how it would effect society negatively if gays were allowed to marry. If I ever have children (by adoption or otherwise) I will not let the word “gay” circulate around the house. I believe we are all people and it makes no difference wether you are attracted to men or women. You should be allowed to join in matrimony without ridicule or labeling by anyone. Geez I’m usually so docile. This story really fired me up. It made me feel so many emotions all at once. Sorry for ranting. It needed to be said…

    Posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 2:05am
  14. Dying is a start in Ohio…

    Posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 2:41pm
  15. I am so glad I don’t live in Ohio

    Posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 6:16pm