Gay Couple Married in Md. Fights for Rights in Ohio

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013  |  Updated 10:33 AM EDT
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Gay Couple Married in Md. Fights for Rights in Ohio

Jim Obergefell (pictured on the left) and John Arthur (right) came to Maryland to get married because John is dying of Lou Gehrig's disease and has just weeks to live.

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A federal judge has ruled in favor of two Ohio men who want their out-of-state marriage recognized as one of them nears death, a case that's seen as encouraging for same-sex marriage supporters in the state.

The death certificate for ailing John Arthur can show James Obergefell as his surviving spouse, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black in Cincinnati said Monday. The couple wanted the ruling for purposes including being able to be buried next to each other in an Arthur family plot that allows only descendants and spouses, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

"We simply set out to say our relationship matters, our marriage matters...," Obergefell said.

Though Black's temporary restraining order supporting their death certificate request was specific to the couple's case, opponents of Ohio's ban on gay marriage were encouraged by it.

"This is going to open the door to create a large number of same-sex couples married in other states'' to try to change the law, said the couple's attorney, Al Gerhardstein.

The men married recently in Maryland, which recognizes gay marriages, their lawsuit filed Friday against state and local authorities said. With Arthur's condition deteriorating, they flew there July 11 and were married on an airport tarmac, their lawsuit states. Arthur has Lou Gehrig's disease.

Black said Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage denies them equal protection under the law, and he also noted that Ohio recognizes other out-of-state marriages, such as between first cousins, that aren't authorized to be performed in the state.

"How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?'' Black wrote. ``The short answer is that Ohio cannot....''

The judge's temporary order will list Arthur as married when he dies, but a final ruling on the case could take years.

An attorney for the city of Cincinnati said it doesn't oppose the couple's request. Messages seeking comment were left Tuesday for the other defendants, Ohio's governor and attorney general.

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