A federal judge ordered the state of Ohio on Monday to recognize the marriage of two gay men, one of whom is dying. According to BuzzFeed, Judge Timothy Black ruled that Ohio must list John Arthur as “married” on his death certificate and name his partner of 25 years, Jim Obergefell, as his “surviving spouse.”
The two men were married on an airport tarmac in Maryland. They were able to charter a plane with medical personnel to tend to Arthur, who has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — and fly to Baltimore, where same sex marriage is legal. Judge Black has issued a temporary restraining order to Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional. Arthur, who the judge wrote, “is certain to die soon,” and should be accorded the same rights as any other American citizen to designate his long-time partner as a properly married spouse.
“The end result here and now is that the local Ohio Registrar of death certificates is hereby ORDERED not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as ‘married’ and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse,’” Black wrote Monday. “By treating lawful same sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sex marriages” as dictated by the 2004 law, the state is violating the U.S. Constitution, he said.
Black cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June in the case of United States v. Windsor, in which the Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1995 federal act that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
While marriage laws may be typically left up to the states, he wrote, they must, in the end, comply with the terms of the U.S. Constitution. Ohio’s anti-same sex marriage amendment, he said, makes LGBT people “unequal under the law.”
A spokesperson for the office of Republican Gov. John Kasich refused to comment directly on the case, but hewed doggedly to the conservative line that the only marriages that are valid are those between opposite sex couples.
“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” said spokesperson Rob Nichols to BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner, “other than to say the that the governor believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
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[Ed. note: This article originally attributed the reporting to Towleroad, but it was actually done by BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner. Raw Story regrets the misattribution.]