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Ohio makes significant changes after gay marriage ruling

Ohio makes significant changes after gay marriage ruling
Jim Obergefell speaks during the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Ceremony.
Jim Obergefell speaks during the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Ceremony. Matt Rourke, AP
COLUMBUS, Ohio –— Same-sex couples in Ohio can now hold their weddings in the Statehouse, file their state taxes jointly and list their spouses on death certificates following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month that legalized gay marriage across the country. The lead plaintiff in the case that led to the landmark ruling was Jim Obergefell of Cincinnati. He sued Ohio’s health director for refusing to list him as the surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate. Ohio voters banned gay marriage in 2004. The state’s health department oversees vital statistics that include birth and death records. Now that gay marriages are allowed, the state is working to comply with the ruling. Here’s a look at some changes that have already been made and others still in the works: ___ STATEHOUSE CEREMONIES A Statehouse rule requires couples to have an Ohio marriage license if they wish to walk down the aisle at the historic building or hold their receptions there. The policy makes no reference to same-sex marriages. But the rule had prevented gay couples from holding their ceremonies in the building’s rotunda, atrium and other spaces, because they had been barred from getting the licenses until the high court’s ruling. A spokesman for the board that oversees the Statehouse and its grounds said the policy remains unchanged since the Supreme Court’s decision. All couples must still submit their licenses to the board to wed at the Statehouse, said Luke Stedke of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. No same-sex couple has applied yet. ___ TAXES Ohio’s tax department has done away with a form used by married same-sex couples. The document had allowed those filing taxes jointly at the federal level to separate their returns for the state. In 2014, 9,894 taxpayers filed this form, according to the department. That’s out of 5.4 million tax filers.
Taxation spokesman Gary Gudmundson said the form was retired at the beginning of July. He said couples can file amended returns, but it’s not required. “The only guideline now is however you file at the federal level is how you have to file at the state level,” he said. ___ PAPERWORK REVISIONS AND OTHER ADJUSTMENTS State officials have sent funeral directors and hospitals new addendums to birth and death certificates with gender-neutral terms such as “parent” and “spouse.” The additional forms also provide space for maiden name information for each parent or spouse. “We’re still working on the long-term plan, which would just be a single sheet, but this is a way to start recognizing (gay marriages) right away,” said Melanie Amato, a health department spokeswoman. For now, those who want to update prior adoption records or birth and death certificates must make the changes in person at the state’s Vital Statistics Office in Columbus. At least 26 people have made such changes following the ruling, Amato said. Later this year, people should be able to adjust the documents at their local health departments. The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the use of gender-neutral references in family court cases in place of words such as husband and wife. The state’s high court is also looking at removing gender references from standard court forms. An initial review found about 20 forms that needed to be changed.



Most public assistance programs such as food stamps or cash assistance shouldn’t experience a significant impact, said Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Most calculate eligibility based on the number of people who live together in a household. But married applicants filing for unemployment benefits can claim a dependent spouse. That can, but not always, result in a larger weekly benefit.

The state’s Medicaid agency is still determining how the court ruling impacts the health program for the poor and disabled. Some Medicaid forms and rules may see changes as the agency works to comply with the court’s ruling, said spokesman Sam Rossi.

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