CINCINNATI — Pam Yorksmith has a 3-year-old son and is about to have a second child, but her name won’t be on either of the children’s birth certificates without a judge’s order.
That’s because Yorksmith is married to a woman, and Ohio doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.
That could change soon if a federal judge does what he said he’d do on Monday: order Ohio to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in states that allow same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati-based Judge Timothy Black said April 4 that he would rule on Monday that Ohio’s refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages is a violation of constitutional rights and denies a fundamental right for people to marry the person of their choosing.
If he does so, Black’s ruling will allow gay couples in Ohio to obtain the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights, the right to make some medical decisions for their partner and the right for each spouse to be listed as parents on their children’s birth certificates and be afforded parental rights.
The ruling would not directly impact any other state but Ohio.
The civil rights attorneys who filed a February lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the marriage ban did not ask Black to order the state to perform gay marriages, and Black did not say he would do so.
The state plans to appeal Black’s ruling, arguing that Ohio has a sovereign right to ban gay marriage, which voters did overwhelmingly in 2004.
Attorneys for the state also have said they’ll ask Black to issue a stay of his ruling to stop it from going into effect immediately as their appeal is pending.
Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and Washington, D.C. Federal judges recently have struck down gay marriage bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia, though stays have been issued pending appeals.
Similar to Ohio’s expected ruling, judges in Kentucky and Tennessee have ordered state officials to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. The Kentucky decision has been stayed pending appeal, while Tennessee’s ruling applies to only three couples.
Yorksmith, a 41-year-old business analyst for a Texas-based consulting firm, and her wife, Nicole Yorksmith, married in California in 2008 and have a 3-year-old son born in Cincinnati who was conceived through artificial insemination. Nicole Yorksmith, a 34-year-old human resources specialist for a Cincinnati-based company, is pregnant with their second son, due to be born in June.
Pam Yorksmith said that means if something happens to her wife or if they ever break up, she will have no parental rights.
“I don’t even have the same rights as a stepparent,” Yorksmith said. “It just doesn’t seem right that in 2014 that I have no rights to my child.”
She said it’s especially frustrating when other parents who neglect or abuse their children sometimes have more rights than she does.
“I met my wife, I fell in love, I got engaged, we spent lots of money to go out of state to get married, came back and bought a house together,” Yorksmith said. “We did all these traditional value things because we wanted to start a family. And then you have people out here, they aren’t married or they get divorced or they don’t take care of their kids, and here I am fighting to even be recognized as these kids’ parent.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he believes marriage is between a man and woman and that Ohio voters decided the same in 2004 when they passed the statewide gay marriage ban.
“My job as attorney general is to defend statutes and defend Ohio’s constitutional provisions,” he said. “This was voted on by voters so my job is to do that.”
Attorneys who represented the Yorksmiths — and the other three gay couples who filed the lawsuit challenging the gay marriage ban — argued that it amounts to state-approved discrimination. They likened it to state bans on interracial marriage, which were finally stricken down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967.
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