U.S. District Judge Timothy Black ruled this week that Ohio must recognize same-sex couples legally married out-of-state as married on their death certificates issued in Ohio. Even though the judge’s order seems restricted to a narrow set of situations, his 50-page opinion also declares Ohio’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional while reasoning his judgment.
Black observed in his ruling that the “right to remain married is … properly recognized as one that is a fundamental liberty interest appropriately protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Here, Ohio’s marriage recognition bans violate this fundamental right without rational justification.”
Ohio’s gay marriage ban is declared unconstitutional on the heels of a federal court declaring Utah’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, and the New Mexico Supreme Court striking down New Mexico’s gay marriage ban earlier this month.
However, Black’s ruling goes even beyond declaring Ohio’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional and proposes that valid principles of constitutional law dictate that same-sex marriages legally consummated anywhere in the country is valid throughout the country irrespective of the presence of local bans on same-sex marriages.
Black wrote that the “Supreme Court has established that existing marital, family, and intimate relationships are areas into which the government should generally not intrude without substantial justification … Based on these principles, the concept that a marriage that has legal force where it was celebrated also has legal force throughout the country has been a longstanding general rule in every state.”
While Black’s order is effective only in Ohio, his ruling can come to the aid of other same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is banned. Followings Black’s logic, any same-sex couples living in a state opposed to same-sex marriage may step out and legally consummate their marriages in other states, following which their state of residence would be compelled to accord legal status to their marriage.