Ohio Gay Marriage Ban Continues, But DOMA Decision Looms Large

Jun 27, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act did nothing to change Ohio’s ban on gay marriage -- directly. But the reasoning of that decision could guide a legal path in Ohio.

Marc Spindelman is a constitutional law professor at Ohio State who’s followed gay marriage cases closely. And he says lots of observers figured, if the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, it would do so on very narrow grounds: That marriage is a state’s business and the feds should butt out.
But instead, the decision acknowledged issues of equal treatment under the law – issues that cross state lines.

And that, he says, makes the Supreme Court decision “big, big big news”  even in Ohio.

“In some respects the legal status of same-sex marriage in Ohio today is the same as it was yesterday and the day before. At the same time, the decision … gave and gives proponents of same-sex marriage a new tool by which to argue that same sex marriage is constitutionally required even at the state level,” says Spindelman.

Spindelman does not expect Ohio’s conservative Legislature will touch the issue. That means those who want to change Ohio’s law will likely follow two other paths: more court challenges or a voter referendum. A group called Freedom to Marry is trying to get a referendum on the November 2014 ballot to overturn the ban voters passed in 2004.