CINCINNATI — A federal judge is expected to issue what could be the most sweeping ruling yet for gay marriage in Ohio by ordering the state to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in states that allow same-sex marriage.
Judge Timothy Black indicated in court on April 4 that he expects to rule on Monday, ordering Ohio to recognize out-of-state gay marriages because the state's ban violates constitutional rights and denies a fundamental right for people to marry the person of their choosing.
His ruling would allow gay couples in Ohio to obtain the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for their partner. The ruling would not have a direct impact on any other state but Ohio.
Black is not expected to force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state.
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 if he doesn't automatically do so.
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."
DeWine declined to speculate what the outcome of the state's appeal will be or the future of gay marriage rights as a whole.
"Every state is having a lively debate over this and I think that's a proper thing to do," he said. "I think it's pretty obvious that all these issues are going to be resolved by the 6th Circuit and some cases are going to get to the Supreme Court. They're going to have a decision in the United States Supreme Court and we're all going to have to accept that."
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.
Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati civil rights attorney who has filed three gay marriage lawsuits in Ohio since June, said several gay couples who want to win the right to marry in Ohio have contacted him. He's considering filing a new lawsuit on their behalf aimed at striking down Ohio's gay marriage ban entirely.
"The ultimate goal is full marriage equality," Gerhardstein said.
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