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Four gay couples sue to force Ohio’s hand on same-sex marriage

Monday, February 10, 2014
Ohio

Al Behrman, AP
Attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein, seated second from right, answers questions Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, during a news conference in Cincinnati. Four legally married gay couples filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday seeking a court order to force Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages on birth certificates despite a statewide ban.

CINCINNATI — Four legally married gay couples filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday seeking a court order to force Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages on birth certificates despite a statewide ban, echoing arguments in a similar successful lawsuit concerning death certificates.

The couples filed the suit in federal court in Cincinnati, arguing that the state’s practice of listing only one partner in a gay marriage as a parent on birth certificates violates the U.S. Constitution.

“We want to be afforded the same benefits and rights as every other citizen of the United States,” said one of the plaintiffs, Joe Vitale, 45, who lives in Manhattan with his husband and their adopted 10-month-old son, who was born in Ohio. The pair married in 2011 shortly after New York legalized gay marriage.

Al Behrman, APPlaintiffs Amanda Broughton, left, with one of her twin sons being held by her partner Michele Hobbs.

Al Behrman, AP
Plaintiffs Amanda Broughton, left, with one of her twin sons being held by her partner Michele Hobbs.

Al Behrman, APNicole Yorksmith, left, holds her son while standing with her partner Pam Yorksmith.

Al Behrman, AP
Nicole Yorksmith, left, holds her son while standing with her partner Pam Yorksmith.

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

A spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office will fight the lawsuit, declined to comment.

Previously, DeWine has said he has a duty to defend Ohio’s constitution and statutes, including the statewide ban on gay marriage, passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2004. Gay marriage supporters are working to put the issue back on the Ohio ballot in November.

The other plaintiffs in Monday’s lawsuit are three lesbian couples living in the Cincinnati area who married in states that have legalized gay marriage. One woman in each of those marriages is pregnant through artificial insemination, and their babies all are due to be born this summer in Cincinnati hospitals.

The couples say they’re worried that having only one of them listed as a parent on their children’s birth certificates could lead to problems down the road, such as a denial of parental rights to the one not named should their partner die or experience a medical emergency.

“I have no legal grounds to stand on. That’s not something that should be happening in our society,” said Pam Yorksmith, who married her wife in California in 2008. The couple has a 3-year-old son and another on the way.

The couples’ attorney is the same one who represented two gay married couples in their lawsuit last year that successfully sought a court order forcing Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. The state is appealing the ruling, issued in December by federal Judge Timothy Black.

“At both ends of our lifespans, a marriage is a marriage. A family is a family,” said the couples’ lawyer, Cincinnati civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein. “A family is a loving, nurturing group of people and the identification document when the children come along is the birth certificate, and it ought to be right.”

Unlike Oklahoma and Utah, where federal judges recently struck down gay marriage bans, Gerhardstein is working to slowly chip away at Ohio’s gay marriage ban through narrow lawsuits.

He referred to the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying he didn’t think its judges would uphold a ruling similar to the Oklahoma and Utah cases but would be more open to the argument he’s making — that a state cannot disavow a marriage that was legal in the state where it took place.

Gerhardstein’s tactic also will give the U.S. Supreme Court a wider variety of legal arguments to consider when appeals from various states reach their chambers.

Gerhardstein hopes his successful gay marriage lawsuit last year acts as a stepping stone to a victory in Monday’s lawsuit.

In last year’s case, Judge Black ruled that Ohio’s ban on gay marriage demeans “the dignity of same-sex couples in the eyes of the state and the wider community.”

“Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away,” Black wrote, saying the right to remain married is recognized as a fundamental liberty in the U.S. Constitution.

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25 more reader comments:

  1. keep pushing!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:09pm
  2. Go for that rainbow carajo!!!!!!!!!!! Keep it up!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:10pm
  3. Good! Ohio needs a good kick in the ass!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:11pm
  4. Jamie Spore

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:12pm
  5. That’s what’s so great of the US, everything is liable.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:13pm
  6. Ohio needs to get on the right side of history, I live in ohio and I’m surrounded by idiots who act like rednecks.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:14pm
  7. It's awful, I hate what a lot of the world is coming to... I can deal more or less with the Kardashians... This injustice is just too much.

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:48pm
  8. I live in Ohio and I support these couples! Good luck! (Plus, I really want to go to a gay marriage I bet it would be fabulous!!)

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:14pm
  9. Go Ohio. Then maybe it will seep into Michigan!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:16pm
  10. I resent your comment Christopher Andrews i am a red neck born and raised and I DONT THINK THE GOVERMENT SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO DICTATE WHO YOU CAN LOVE OR MARRY !!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:17pm
  11. Bravo equality for all is feeling closer

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:21pm
  12. You have my support from West Virginia !

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:25pm
  13. What the fuck are we telling our kids by continuing to stress marriage as the most important LGBT+ civil rights fight? By telling them their personal identity is LESS important than their relationship status?

    As it stands now, all the young LGBT+ kids that are getting bullied in high school and kicked out of their homes, you’re telling them to wait until after you get married. All the people that have contemplated suicide because of their sexuality? Nope, your ‘big day’ is more important. All the unemployed LGBT+ folks that got fired because their state doesn’t protect worker’s rights? Just wait your turn. The trans* folks that have the “audacity” to want to choose their own name, and have their identity respected on government documents? That’s not as important as my wedding.

    Seriously, folks, what does this say about our movement?

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:28pm
  14. Supported by your fellow gays in Michigan… Michigan needs a swift kick in the butt also…let’s make 2014 ours!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:29pm
  15. Some of us already went thru the young age of being bullied.. we have waited long enough to be able to marry our partners…

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:31pm
  16. So… 2nd amendment is a right. If I get a concealed carry permit in one state and then move to a state that does not recognize can I sue the state to recognize my concealed carry license? Or any type of gun ownership issue?

    That appears to be the base argument for the lawsuit. If a right to marry and a right to gun ownership are both individual rights affirmed by the court is such a lawsuit possible?

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:34pm
  17. If these states wish, then we will go one by one by one…

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:39pm
  18. Keep up the fight

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:54pm
  19. Christopher is right Ohio is full of backward thinking, tobacco dipping, deer hunting, cousin fucking rednecks. CAN’T WAIT TO MOVE BACK TO CALIFORNIA!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 6:05pm
  20. Kids don’t care about gay marriage unless you go out of your way to teach them it’s wrong. I know I certainly didn’t know there was a difference between gay and straight until it became blatantly obvious that one life style choice was treated better than the other.

    To all of you republicans and conservatives that don’t like it, move to another country. Best advice I can give all of you who don’t believe in freedom.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 6:26pm
  21. It’s the only way – take it to court.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 8:55pm
  22. Ohio thinks equality for some. Not for all. Equality for straights not for gays

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 8:56pm
  23. But why? Federal law is to be obbey by states right?

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 8:57pm
  24. The federal law (DOMA) that addresses same-sex marriage forbids it. The Supreme Court has subsequently struck down that law as being unconstitutional but it still remains on the books because Congress has yet to repeal (remove) it. Until then, each state that hasn't expressly approved of same-sex marriage has been going through court battles because of it. Once the court battle gets appealed to the Supreme Court level it resolves in favor of same-sex marriage. It's a waste of states' money each time it needs to happen simply because the Republicans refuse to vote to repeal the law while they're in control of the House. It's yet another reason to vote for Democrats at every election.

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 9:15pm
  25. April Penny

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 10:09pm