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Gay rights group seeks to expand Ohio same-sex marriage challenge

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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CINCINNATI — A gay rights group wants to intervene in a court case that’s being appealed, hoping to persuade a federal court to overturn Ohio’s gay marriage ban and allow same-sex couples to wed in the state.

Ohio-flagEquality Ohio and four gay couples living in the state who want to get married filed legal documents Wednesday asking the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to allow them to intervene in the case.

That case stems from a federal judge’s narrow decision in December ordering Ohio to recognize gay marriages on death certificates. The state appealed.

Equality Ohio’s executive director, Elyzabeth Holford, said she wants the 6th Circuit to allow her group to join the case so it can advocate for a ruling forcing Ohio to allow gay couples to marry in Ohio and obtain all the rights that heterosexual couples have.

The group is represented by Roberta Kaplan, the New York attorney who successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court last year to strike down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law.

In her court filing Wednesday, Kaplan acknowledged that intervention in a case at this stage is relatively rare but appropriate given a spate of recent pro-marriage rulings across the country.

“The Ohio Constitution impermissibly discriminates against gay and lesbian couples not only by denying their right to marry, but — even more outrageously — by denying them legal recognition in any form whatsoever, thus going far beyond simply prohibiting marriages between gay people,” Kaplan wrote.

Attorneys on both sides of the death certificate case oppose Equality Ohio’s intervention.

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Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati civil rights attorney who won the death certificate case on behalf of two Cincinnati couples, said he will file a motion opposing the interventions. He declined to say why or comment further.

Bridget Coontz, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office attorney arguing on behalf of the state, said in an email to Equality Ohio’s attorneys that the state also likely would file an objection to the intervention.

“We are concerned that your motion seeks to alter the nature of the case and the judgment,” Coontz wrote. She also criticized the timing.

Ohio is one of many U.S. states in the throes of legal battles over gay marriage. Eight federal judges have issued pro-gay marriage rulings since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law last June.

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