Updated: 4:10 p.m. EDT
CINCINNATI — Attorneys for the state of Ohio asked a federal judge Tuesday to stay his decision ordering the state to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states, a request the judge said he was inclined to grant.
The state attorneys said in a court filing they would not object to the request by four couples who sued in February to have both spouses listed on their children’s birth certificates, but urged Judge Timothy Black to stay Monday’s ruling for everyone else.
“This court’s order is a momentous change in Ohio’s marriage law, that will require widespread — but in light of appeal, possibly temporary — changes in Ohio law,” they wrote. “The public interest and other parties are not served by such confusion.”
Black said he is inclined to issue a stay of his decision pending appeal, meaning most gay couples living in the state would see no immediate tangible expansion of their rights.
Black’s order does not force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state. He said he would rule expeditiously on the stay.
The civil rights attorneys who represent the couples argued in a filing late Monday that Black should allow his ruling to take effect immediately, extending broad rights to all same-sex married couples in Ohio. They argue that the state’s appeal isn’t likely to succeed, there is no public interest in delaying the ruling, and that no irreparable harm will come if the ruling is implemented, except to the same-sex couples trying to be treated with fairness.
“This court’s order simply requires the state to recognize that which many other jurisdictions and the federal government already recognize — that these couples are indeed validly married and are entitled to the same dignity and legal protections other married families take for granted,” lead plaintiffs’ attorney Al Gerhardstein wrote in the filing.
Three of the four couples live in the Cincinnati area. They’re all women, and one spouse in each relationship is pregnant and due to give birth this summer. The fourth couple lives in New York City but adopted their child from Ohio.
If Black declines to stay the ruling, that would allow all married gay couples living in Ohio to obtain the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for their partner.
Black said in his Monday ruling that Ohio’s refusal to recognize gay marriage is a violation of constitutional rights and “unenforceable in all circumstances.”
“The record before this court … is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Black wrote.
Including Black, eight federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court’s decision last June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay-marriage law. All but one of those rulings has been stayed pending appeal.
Although Black’s order does not force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state, Gerhardstein said he was planning to file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks seeking such a ruling.
The case is Henry v. Wymyslo.
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