US Supreme Court to Hear Ohio Gay Marriage Case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 16 that it will hear arguments about gay marriage bans in Ohio and three other states this spring, lining up what could be a precedent-setting legal battle over the bans.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 16 that it will hear arguments about gay marriage bans in Ohio and three other states this spring, lining up what could be a precedent-setting legal battle over the bans.

In November, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee in a 2-1 decision, though other circuit courts across the country have struck down similar laws.

Three Ohio couples are represented in the suits. Among them is James Obergefell of Cincinnati. In 2013, Obergefell fought for the right to be listed on his husband Jim Arthur’s death certificate. The two flew to Maryland, where same-sex marriage is legal, to wed. Arthur was terminally ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease and passed away a short time later. Obergefell successfully won the right to be listed as spouse on Arthur’s death certificate, though Ohio has appealed that decision.

Sixth Circuit Court Justices Deborah Cook and Jeffery Sutton ruled that the debate over same-sex marriage is best decided by voters. Justice Martha Daughtrey dissented.

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote in the majority opinion.

The 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th circuit courts previously struck down laws in a number of states banning same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia.Ohio voters approved a 2004 amendment to the state’s constitution banning gay marriage, though some public opinion experts say mainstream values have changed since that time. Opponents of the court’s decision liken marriage equality to past advances on civil rights issues which took federal intervention and court decisions to bring about.

Most legal experts say there is a good chance the Supreme Court will strike down the 6th Circuit’s decision, in effect declaring state gay marriage bans like Ohio’s unconstitutional. In 2013, the last time the Supreme Court heard arguments about gay marriage, it struck down a federal ban on same sex unions in a 5-4 decision. The majority opinion said that the federal ban “demeans” same sex couples and violated the 14th Amendment.

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