CINCINNATI – A federal appeals court will hear arguments today in six challenges to laws that ban marriage for same-sex couples or the recognition of marriages of same-sex couples throughout the 6th District.
In each case, a lower court in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, or Kentucky ruled in favor of marriage for same-sex couples. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Ohio joined one of the cases, Obergefell v. Himes, in December asking the state to recognize the marriage of a Cincinnati man and his late husband. The case was filed by Alphonse Gerhardstein of Gerhardstein & Branch.
The case was filed on behalf of James Obergefell and John Arthur, who were in a committed relationship for 22 years and wished to marry. When Arthur’s condition deteriorated due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the two flew to Maryland on a medically-equipped plane, where they were married on the tarmac in July 2013. When they returned, they learned that Obergefell would not be listed on Arthur’s death certificate as his surviving spouse when he died because Ohio did not recognize their marriage for any purpose.
Shortly after filing, a district court temporarily suspended Ohio’s recognition ban as it applied to this case. Arthur died in October, with his death certificate listing Obergefell as his spouse. The state is appealing that ruling and seeking to amend Arthur’s death certificate to remove all mention of his marriage.
“No couple should have to live through the uncertainty that John and I did in the most painful moments of our lives,” said Obergefell. “I will fight to preserve John’s last wish to have our marriage respected. And I fight for all caring and devoted Ohio couples, too.”
Also represented in the case are David Michener, who unexpectedly lost his husband William Herbert Ives shortly after their marriage last year. Michener, who has been raising the couple’s three children, is also suing to ensure that Ives’ death certificate is accurate. Robert Grunn, a funeral director whose clients included Obergefell and Arthur, is also a plaintiff.
“The state’s insistence on denying these families this one simple dignity is cruel to them, and to all loving and committed same-sex couples in Ohio,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “We are seeking justice for our clients, and also seeking to ensure that this never happens again.”
Other cases being heard by the 6th Circuit today include:
Another Ohio case, Henry v. Himes, also dealing with the recognition of out-of-state marriages.
Two cases from Tennessee, Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear, one dealing with marriage and one with recognition.
A right to marry case from Michigan, DeBoer v. Snyder, and a recognition case from Tennessee, Tanco v. Haslam.