Updated 4:06 p.m. ET, 4/4/2014
(An earlier version of this report stated incorrectly that Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage was to be declared unconstitutional.)
(CNN) - A federal judge signaled Friday that he'll declare unconstitutional Ohio's current refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states - the latest instance in which courts have challenged restrictions on the rights of legally-married gays and lesbians.
A hearing was held Friday where lawyers for several same-sex couples asked the judge to dismiss on equal protection grounds all aspects of the state's voter-approved ban on recognizing gay and lesbian couples who were legally wed elsewhere. The judge– a 2010 appointee of President Barack Obama– announced from the bench he would officially do so in coming days.
"I intend to issue a written decision and order by April 14 striking down as unconstitutional under all circumstances Ohio's ban on recognizing legal same-sex marriages from other states," said Judge Timothy Black, according the Cincinnati-based court.
The decision for now does not apply to homosexual couples who seek to marry in Ohio.
State officials had argued it was the right of the state and its citizens to define marriage. There was no immediate reaction on the latest developments from Mike DeWine, the state's attorney general, but an appeal is expected.
Marriage equality advocates cheered the judge's action.
"Today's decision will make a real difference to legally married gay Ohio couples, affirming that their home state may not deny them and their families legal protections and the basic dignity of treating them as what they are: married," said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry.
"This common-sense and constitutional ruling adds to the momentum across the country in favor of the freedom to marry."
Ohio's current ban was passed by voters a decade ago.
In February of 2004, President George W. Bush announced support for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
In the election that November, voters in Ohio and ten other states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between a man and a woman only.
Sixty-two percent of Ohioans voted in favor of the constitutional amendment. The push to put the issue on the ballot in the Buckeye State was seen as a move by the Republican Party to drive conservative voters to the polls to help re-elect Bush. Then-Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential challenger in 2004, conceded to Bush the day after Election Day after the president narrowly captured Ohio.
According to a Quinnipiac University survey conducted in February, 50% of Ohio voters backed legalizing same-sex marriage, with 44% opposed to making same-sex marriage legal.
This latest decision adds legal and political momentum to the issue following the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision last June ruling unconstitutional key parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined for federal purposes marriage as only between one man and one woman. It meant legally married gay and lesbian couples could now enjoy a range of benefits including tax breaks.
The justices did not go as far as saying that all states must allow such marriages to take place within their borders, but a number of lower federal courts have since stepped into the fray.
Since last summer, federal and state courts in Kentucky, Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, New Jersey, and Michigan have separately struck down similar bans on same-sex marriage. There are more than 47 same-sex marriage lawsuits pending in about two dozen states, on both allowing such unions to take place within its borders, and formal recognition of already legally-married couples.
A federal appeals court in Denver will be next to hold arguments on Utah's prohibition, a constitutional challenge that could reach the U.S. Supreme Court for final review by year's end. That could present the monumental question of whether gay marriage is a constitutional right that would apply to all states, including the more than 30 with current bans.
Hawaii, California and Illinois are among the states that have begun issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples in the past year.
Judge Black's ruling Friday came after a narrower decision last December, when he ordered Ohio to recognize legal same-sex marriages on death certificates.
Two gay men had originally sued the state last year after their separate partners had recently died. Both wanted the death certificates to list they were legally wed in other states.
The consolidated lawsuit also includes three legally-married lesbian couples who want their names listed on birth certificates of their children, who will be born in coming months.
The Ohio case is Henry v. Wymyslo (14-cv-129).
CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
couldn't have said it better. Great job. the religious fanatics and their Inquisition-like/Talibanesque idea of society is a "joke"
We don't live in a theocracy – and if a person's faith is so weak that they can't handle being around others who are just like then, well, I guess we should pray for them, because that's pretty pathetic and sad. :)
@Tampa, same old grind. Ready for a couple of adult beverages.....
Marriage is between a man and a woman.
@Jesus is a liberal: "@Anne – Um....Jesus is a liberal."
Yep – what else do you call someone who would say, Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9); Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. (Matthew 22:21); Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39); So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.
(Matthew 7:12.); If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. (Matthew 19:21).
The list goes on and on and on ...
"How does this ruling change how you need to live your life?"
He's having his ability to consider himself superior to others taken away...which is really the conservatives' favorite toy. Not to mention their love of being able to say "I have something you don't get to have."
So, republicans, how does it feel to be on the wrong side of the Laws , Again!!
Another state where my sisters-in-law can live with equal rights – YAY!
Although I doubt they'll move to Ohio; pretty cold winters!
This is the common misconception among us Americans. We do not live in a democracy. We have a democratic government in which we elect our leaders and so forth, but we are actually a Republic.
A republic is a government where the minority is not subjected to the majority. This saves us from things such as slavery being voted as law because the majority of people want it. It saves us from killing anyone with blond hair.
IF we were in a democracy, a jury of 12 people voting on the guilt of a human being...11 votes would be enough. 1 vote would not be enough to stop a conviction. But in a republic, 1 vote for not guilty stops a person from being convicted of a crime.
I encourage you to read about the fact that the USA is a republic and not a democracy as people say it is. If it were, a lot of crazy things could get into law because people want it.
Congratulations to the gay community in Ohio.
Once again, if you don't want to marry a gay person then please don't. Otherwise mind your own business!
And to the person who asked if "So voting and democracy doesn't mean anything anymore?" please know that voting is used to suppress others, it can also be used to suppress you. Rights aren't supposed to be voted on by the majority – that why they are called rights!
Ahhh, didn't you catch Mr. Cruz declare that "religion is under attack in America like never before" on Wednesday? This is the new Republican diversion from reality. By not letting the religious run wild- and denying gays the same rights as the rest of us, is a "war" on religion.
The GOP is so, so, lost.
And to the idiots on here saying things like if the south had it their way they would have slaves and women would not have the right to vote I just have to laugh. And these are the same people who say that repubs are the ones that run on fear. How wonderfully ironic.
And, again, I am a classical liberal so I don't agree with the repubs on their social stances but I certainly am tolerant enough to understand that they are free to have those positions...
Eli... if the south had been able to vote on the issue, blacks would still be slaves and woman would never have been given the right to vote.
About ten years ago, the Canadian government legalized gay marriage without asking anyone. People were furious. When the Prime Minister was asked why, he replied "Because it was the right thing to do". And now? People no longer care because they realized that it didn't impact them in any way whatsoever. The religious can still refuse to marry gay people if they want because the government will marry them without a problem. And they are legally protected against discrimination.
Just because it CAN be voted on, doesn't mean it should be. Sometimes its about doing what's right, no matter what the popular mindset might say. That includes allowing gays to marry, allowing women to vote, and freeing the slaves.
intelligent and succintly put.
Thank you for your post, I wholeheartedly agree.
Let it go people.
Every citizen should have equal rights.
If you can marry so should gays.
You cannot have one state say I DO and another state say I DON'T...
In effect, you are segregating the people married in the I DO states from moving, vacationing, working, making medical arrangents, or visting their spouse in hospitals should they take ill in I DON'T states.
True marriage is between a Man and a Women!
But.... I'm all for Gay people getting the same tax breaks, etc....
This war is over. So much fun to watch these fools and their money part. They ought to take some of it, buy a dictionary and look up the word "precedent".