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Ohio must recognize gay marriages on death certificates: Judge

Glenn Hartong / Cincinnati Enquirer via AP file

Jim Obergefell, left and John Arthur, right, are married by officiant Paulette Roberts, rear center, in a plane on the tarmac at Baltimore/Washington International Airport in Glen Burnie, Md., in July.

A federal judge ruled on Monday that Ohio must acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates and went further in his decision to say that lower courts were now applying the recent historic Supreme Court decision striking down the federal ban on recognition of such unions.

The decision came just hours before a federal judge in Utah denied a stay to his earlier ruling knocking down that state’s same-sex marriage ban, saying it denied gay couples equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. That ruling also relied heavily on the Supreme Court case, which struck down Section 3 of DOMA, or the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, in June.

“This conclusion flows from the Windsor (DOMA) decision of the United States Supreme Court this past summer, which held that the federal government cannot refuse to recognize a valid same-sex marriage,” wrote Judge Timothy S. Black of the US District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, who was nominated to the post by President Barack Obama.

“And now it is just as Justice (Antonin) Scalia predicted,” he continued, of the question posed by one of the Supreme Court justices on how far the DOMA decision would reach. “The lower courts are applying the Supreme Court’s decision, as they must, and the question is presented whether a state can do what the federal government cannot – i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004). Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no.”

He added: "Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away."

The Ohio case was brought by attorneys for a longtime Cincinnati couple, James Obergefell and John Arthur, whose July 11, 2013 wedding on a tarmac in Maryland — where gay marriage is legal — made international headlines.

Arthur, who was suffering from ALS, died on Oct. 22. That was when the marriage of the couple, who had been together since 1992, was ordered recognized by the court on Arthur’s death certificate.

In recent months, four states have recognized same-sex marriage, bringing to 17 (excluding Utah) the number of states that allow gays and lesbians to wed. The District of Columbia also allows such unions. More than 30 states prohibit it through state laws or constitutional amendments, known as state DOMAs.