A lot of attention has been paid to court rulings in Utah and New Mexico overturning those states’ bans on same-sex marriage, but there are a couple of other interesting court rulings in the last week that touch on the same issues in a more tangential way. In Ohio, a federal court ruled that the state must recognize a valid same-sex marriage performed in another state when issuing a death certificate if one of the spouses dies.
… [U]nder the Constitution of the United States, Ohio must recognize valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples on Ohio death certificates, just as Ohio recognizes all other out-of-state marriages, if valid in the state performed, and even if not authorized nor validly performed under Ohio law, such as marriages between first cousins, marriages of certain minors, and common law marriages.
That is, once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away, because the right to remain married is properly recognized as a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.
Moreover, as this Court held in its initial Orders this summer and reaffirms today, by treating lawful same-sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sex marriages (e.g., marriages of first cousins, marriages of certain minors, and common law marriages), Ohio law, as applied to these Plaintiffs, violates the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection….
This does not invalidate Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage in general, at least not yet. But it’s pretty obvious where the courts are going with this. In Indiana, a state court ruled that a marriage is not invalidated if one of the spouses changes genders:
In In re Marriage of Melanie Davis and Angela Summers, (IN App., Dec. 20, 2013), the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a marriage between a man and a woman that is valid when entered does not become void when one of the spouses is diagnosed with gender dysphoria and has his or her birth certificate amended to reflect a change in gender. Even though Indiana law bars same-sex marriage, this ban does not apply to a marriage that is valid in Indiana when entered.
In that case, Melanie Davis (nee David Paul Summers) filed for divorce but a court ruled that the marriage was automatically dissolved when Davis was granted a name change on her birth certificate because same-sex marriages are not recognized. I assume that paves the way for a genuine legal divorce.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: