CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio officials must immediately recognize the same-sex marriages of four couples who sued over the state's gay marriage ban, a federal judge said Wednesday, while staying the broader effects of his ruling to avoid "premature celebration and confusion" in case it's overturned on appeal.
Judge Timothy Black stayed his ruling ordering Ohio to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in other states pending appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeals process likely will take months.
Had Black not issued the stay, all married gay couples living in Ohio would have been able to immediately begin obtaining the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for each other.
Black said the stay does not apply to the four couples who filed the February lawsuit that led to the court case, and ordered Ohio to immediately list both spouses in each relationship as parents on their children's birth certificates.
Liz Wilson and her wife are among those who will have to wait for the appeal to play out.
"It's frustrating," said the 44-year-old Cleveland woman, who married her wife in New York last year. "At the end of the day you just want your family to be safe and secure."
In explaining the stay, Black said that although he doesn't think the state's appeal will succeed, there is still a chance the 6th Circuit could overturn his decision.
"The court recognizes that recognition of same-sex marriages is a hotly contested issue in the contemporary legal landscape, and, if (the) appeal is ultimately successful, the absence of a stay ... is likely to lead to confusion, potential inequity and high costs," Black said. "Premature celebration and confusion do not serve anyone's best interests."
In a court filing arguing for a stay, attorneys for the state did not contest Black's stated inclination to allow the four couples to both be listed on their children's birth certificates.
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