The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will be busy come August 6, 2014 as every single state in their jurisdiction (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee) has brought a case related to gay marriage to their courtroom for a decision.
Now that the Sixth Circuit has announced that they will hear oral arguments for the two same sex marriage recognition cases from Ohio, many of my clients and friends have asked me what a positive decision could mean.
My usual answer is: “It means a whole lot, but not enough.”
What a Verdict Upholding Judge Black’s Decisions WILL Mean:
The Ohio cases before the Judges of the Sixth Circuit demand that Ohio recognize marriages that were performed and are legally valid outside the state.
Specifically, the Obergefell case demands that same sex spouses be recognized on death certificates, and the Henry case applies for all other purposes for which same-sex couples married out of state might seek recognition in Ohio.
This will open the doors for same sex couples married out of state to be recognized as spouses for birth certificates, death certificates, adoptions, divorces, taxes and other legal documents.
What a Verdict Upholding Judge Black’s Decisions WILL NOT Mean:
Neither of these cases, if they are affirmed by the Sixth Circuit, will mean the beginning of same sex marriage within Ohio borders.
They will have no effect on the “Mini-DOMA” that was written into Ohio’s constitution in 2004 prohibiting same sex couples from marrying.
All they will require is that the State of Ohio recognize same sex marriages that were validly performed out of state as valid within Ohio.
Practice Note: Not all same sex marriages performed in another state are valid! RE: “Reverse Evasion” marriages.
Overall, I tell my friends and clients that I am allowing myself to be cautiously optimistic. I have hope that if the Sixth Circuit affirms Judge Black’s holdings in these two cases, then we will be one step closer to having all of the right and protections we so richly deserve, and another step further on our journey to “Liberty and Justice for All”.