Tuesday December 1st, 2015 6:08AM

Couples sue to force Ohio's hand on gay marriage

By The Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Four legally married gay couples filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday seeking a court order to force Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages on birth certificates despite a statewide ban, echoing arguments in a similar successful lawsuit concerning death certificates.

The couples filed the suit in federal court in Cincinnati, arguing that the state's practice of listing only one partner in a gay marriage as a parent on birth certificates violates the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs include three lesbian couples living in the Cincinnati area who were recently married in states that have legalized gay marriage. One woman in each of those marriages is pregnant through artificial insemination, and their babies all are due to be born this summer in Cincinnati hospitals.

The fourth couple lives in New York, where gay marriage is legal, and last year adopted a boy who was born in Ohio.

The couples' attorney is the same one who represented two gay married couples in their lawsuit last year that successfully sought a court order forcing Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. The state is appealing the ruling, issued in December by federal Judge Timothy Black.

"At both ends of our lifespans, a marriage is a marriage," said Cincinnati civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein. "Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages and the families founded on those marriages throughout life."

A spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office will fight the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest lawsuit.

Previously, DeWine has said he has a duty to defend Ohio's constitution and statutes, including the statewide ban on gay marriage, passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2004.

Gay marriage supporters say they have collected enough signatures to put the issue back on the Ohio ballot in November.

Monday's lawsuit seeks to build on the success of last year's lawsuit seeking to have gay marriage recognized on death certificates.

In that case, Black ruled that Ohio's ban on gay marriage demeans "the dignity of same-sex couples in the eyes of the state and the wider community."

"Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away," Black wrote, saying the right to remain married is recognized as a fundamental liberty in the U.S. Constitution.

Black also referenced Ohio's historical practice of recognizing other out-of-state marriages even though they can't legally be performed in Ohio, such as those involving cousins or minors.

Two federal judges have reached the same conclusions as Black, though they went much further in their rulings. Judges in Oklahoma and Utah both recently struck down gay marriage bans in the deeply conservative states. Those rulings are being appealed.
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