Gay Parents Deserve Rights, Too: Chipping Away at Ohio’s Gay Marriage Ban

Four couples from Ohio have filed a new lawsuit in which they are taking on the state’s refusal to list both same-sex parents on a child’s birth certificate.

The issue is, at its heart, a simple one: “All of the (couples) seek an order that will establish for children and parents in families established through same-sex marriages the same status and dignity enjoyed by children and parents in families established through opposite-sex marriages,” the suit, filed by Cincinnati attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein, says.

One of the couples in the suit, Pam and Nicole Yorksmith, whose second child is due in June, want the rights that any opposite sex couple would be able to take for granted. “We’re entitled to have that name listed on the birth certificate,” Pam Yorksmith is quoted as saying. All of the couples say they fear that, should the worst happen, the partner not listed on the birth certificate will have little to no claim under Ohio law due to the state’s hinging parent recognition on the marriage status.

The federal lawsuit argues that the state only allowing one same-sex partner to be listed as a parent on a child’s birth certificate is unconstitutional, and that the marriage-conferred right of automatic parental recognition should be open to same-sex couples who were married out of state — so yes, this case does take on the state’s gay marriage ban, but in a slightly different way than we’re used to seeing.

While in states like Oklahoma and Utah we’ve seen court cases that directly aim to strike down the state’s gay marriage bans, and with some success, attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein has used a different approach by slowly chipping away at Ohio’s marriage ban.

Before this current case was the suit in which Gerhardstein represented James Obergefell as he fought to be listed as the spouse on husband John Arthur’s death certificate. They were successful in that case, with U.S. District Court Judge Tim Black giving an extensive but narrow ruling that supported not only John Arthur’s claim, but the claims of all same-sex surviving spouses because, as Black wrote, same-sex marriages carried out in other states can’t simply just disappear across state lines.

The Supreme Court of the United States has shown a reluctance to look at the issue of marriage equality, and so while ultimately direct challenges to state gay marriage bans might not be successful in the near term, narrow cases that demand only narrow rulings could find favor.

Recent moves to expand federal recognition of same-sex marriages, particularly in terms of recognizing the right for joint filing for bankruptcy and prison visitation rights, may play their part in adding weight to this case. The federal government already recognizes same-sex marriages for the purpose of many (yet still not all) of the benefits and responsibilities associated with marriage.

Republican Gov. John Kasich’s office has said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, except to say: “the governor believes marriage is between a man and a woman.” Attorney General Mike DeWine also hasn’t commented, but has previously said he is duty-bound to defend the 2004 voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban.

This is in contrast to state administrations such as Nevada’s which has just announced it will no longer defend its own same-sex marriage ban in court because, based on the Supreme Court’s Windsor v. United States decision, among other rulings and determinations, the ban is unlawful.

While this latest Ohio filing isn’t necessarily a guaranteed success, it does seem a strong case and certainly it will probably be cases like this that ultimately forces Ohio to eventually recognize marriage equality.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Tim W.
Timothy W.2 years ago

Anne M.
Adoption is a wonderful way to make sure that children who need good homes with people who will love them, will find them. So very many children are born into homes where the parents either don't want them, or simply are not able to care for them and yet some people would say they are better off with them rather than loving parents who happen to be gay. The Christian Right amazes me. First they want to say you can't use the pill or rubbers, then they say after a girl gets pregnant that she can not have an abortion, then when the girl decides that she is not able to take responsibility for the child and chooses to allow a loving couple to adopt the child, the Christians say no. Come Christer's get off the pot or shit already.

Natasha Salgado
natasha salgado2 years ago

I agree with Ann--get on with it already--no chipping away.

Lynn C.
Lynn C.2 years ago

Every step a battle....

Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago

Ohio needs to get into the 21st Century and HELP not hinder gay parents.

Heather G.
Heather G.2 years ago

Anne M, you should actually meet and get to know some couples who are both men and parents before you insult all of them!! Or even some men who are caring and responsible fathers!

Anne Moran
Anne Moran2 years ago

Forget chipping away at it,, gotta take a sledgehammer to it...

Ohio,, get a grip !!

Tim W.
Timothy W.2 years ago

Anne M.
You are always using weak reasons to argue against anything having to do with gay couples. Men are as capable of waking up as women. Hell when I was a kid, if I woke with a bad dream it was my father who came rushing into the room to check on me. It was my father who woke himself up every single night half way through to take my older brother and myself to the bathroom because my brother had a problem wetting. Men are capable, you can't just say something insane like that and expect people to believe it without question, unless you are in front of your congregation.

Anne M.
anne M.2 years ago

I wonder what the point is in listing anybody on a child's birth certificate who's not related to the child. After all, it might help a person to establish genetic problems etc. from knowing who his/her ancestors are but adoptive parents are totally irrelevant in this respect. These people in the article are completely unrealistic and certainly don't have the interest of the child at heart.

Anne M.
anne M.2 years ago

First off, I might point out that I object to this adoption craze. Basically, adoptions are a money making racket and to force women who don't want children to give birth anyway with the aim of giving the child up for adoption is just feeding into this immoral nonsense of selling and buying babies. Adoptions should be limited to cases where both parents died and hopefully members of the extended family are willing to adopt. This said, two men (regardless if they're gay or not) adopting a baby? You've got to be kidding. Men hit the pillow and practically die, they don't wake up when the baby sneezes. A couple of men sitting in front of the TV watching the superbowl wouldn't notice a baby choking to death on a toy right under the coffee table in front of them. Okay, accuse me of generalizing about men but fact is that two men with a baby is just crazy. This has nothing to do with gay rights but the fact that men don't make the best parents period, at least not for babies. Heck, enough women are sorry parents why add to the problem?

barb horban
barbara C Horban2 years ago

A parent is a parent whether a married heterosexual couple, a single parent male or female, or a gay /lesbian couple. The key word is parent. Is the environment nurturing for the child is there love in the household? Are the child's needs being met? That is what a PARENT does regardless of their sexual preference or lifestyle.