(Cincinnati) - A federal judge said Friday that he will strike down Ohio's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, a move that stops short of forcing Ohio to perform same-sex weddings but will make the state recognize gay couples legally wed elsewhere.
Judge Timothy Black announced his intentions in federal court in Cincinnati following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban.
"I intend to issue a declaration that Ohio's recognition bans, that have been relied upon to deny legal recognition to same-sex couples validly entered in other states where legal, violates the rights secured by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Black said. "(They're) denied their fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married."
The civil rights attorneys who filed the February lawsuit did not ask Black to order the state to perform gay marriages, and he did not say he would do so.
"It's pretty much to be expected. Judge Tim Black is a far-left liberal," said Phil Burress with Citizens for Community Values, the main backer of the 2004 marriage amendment.
The Cincinnati-based legal team asked Black to declare that Ohio's gay marriage ban is "facially unconstitutional, invalid and unenforceable," and indicated that following such a ruling, the window would be open for additional litigation seeking to force the state to allow gay couples to marry in Ohio.
"I'm certain that people that love one another and want to commit themselves to one another will find a way to get a marriage certificate and a marriage officiant to be married as quickly as possible," said Ian James with Freedom to Marry Ohio, the group that's pushing to get an issue on the ballot to overturn the 2004 ban. "It is a monumental leap forward."
Attorneys for the state argued that it's Ohio's sole province to define marriage as between a man and a woman, that the statewide gay marriage ban doesn't violate any fundamental rights, and that attorneys improperly expanded their originally narrow lawsuit.
"Ohio has made its own decision regarding marriage, deciding to preserve the traditional definition," state's attorneys argued in court filings ahead of Friday's hearing.
They argued that prohibiting the state from enforcing its marriage ban would "disregard the will of Ohio voters, and undercut the democratic process."
"It's one judge trying to strike down the will of 62 percent of the voters," said Burress.
Black didn't say why he made the announcement on his ruling before he issues it. But by stating his intention ahead of his ruling, Black gave time for the state to prepare an appeal that can be filed as soon as he does.
Burress is confident that the ruling will be overturned on appeal.
"We are very confident that (Attorney General) Mike DeWine will vigorously defend the will of the people," he said.
DeWine's office isn't commenting until the ruling is officially made.