Ohio LGBT Law

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This page is designed to help you better understand the basics surrounding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) laws, including: the law related to LGBT marriage, the law related to LGBT divorce, and the law related to LGBT custody of children. In order to better understand the laws that are currently in place in the state of Ohio for the LGBT community, it is first important to look at the United States Supreme Court decision from Obergefell v. Hodges, which was recently decided in 2015.

Note: Just as with any other legal situation, if a person finds themselves facing an issues related to LGBT marriage, divorce, or custody law, they should not hesitate to contact an attorney. It is always a good idea to seek any legal advice from a legal professional rather than an individual attempting to handle it themselves. This page details the specifics regarding LGBT law in the state of Ohio, and may vary from state-to-state.

The Effects of Obergefell v. Hodges on the LGBT Community

On June 26, 2015 the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision that would change the course of history in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. More importantly though, the decision that was handed down on that day would have a ripple effect across the country that would serve to amplify the voice of the LGBT community.

The case of Obergefell v. Hodges began when several groups of same-sex couples brought lawsuits against the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. These couples were challenging whether or not it was constitutional for these states to ban same-sex marriage or in some cases, the state’s refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages. The Plaintiff’s argued that the statutes the states had in effect violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause. The trial court, in all of these cases, found in favor of the Plaintiffs. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the decision of the lower court and held that the statutes did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Ultimately it came down to the United States Supreme Court.

The Petitioners (formerly Plaintiffs) brought two federal questions forward:

“(1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
(2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex that was legally licensed and performed in another state?”

Oral arguments for this case were held on April 28, 2015 and less than two months later, on June 26, the Supreme Court came back with their decision. After much deliberation and discussion, the Justices came back with a 5-4 decision in favor of Obergefell and the Petitioners.

Breaking It Down: This decision by the United States Supreme Court meant that the Fourteenth Amendment requires the issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex couples and recognition of same-sex couples.

Note: For more information on the opinion handed down in this case, please see: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2014/14-556

LGBT Marriage Law

With the outcome of Obergefell v. Hodges taking effect on June 26, 2015. The state of Ohio can no longer deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Similarly, the state of Ohio must now recognize all legal same-sex marriages performed anywhere else in the United States.

This being the case, same-sex couples are now afforded the same legal means and measures to go about seeking out a marriage as opposite-sex couples were allowed to do in the past. No state agency can deny a same-sex couple a marriage license as long as they meet the all the standard state requirements and fill out the necessary paperwork required of the state in any standard marriage procedure.

However, just because state agencies in Ohio are required to recognize and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples should they choose to get married, this does not mean that all agencies in the state are required to marry same-sex couples. Churches and religious organizations are still allowed to deny service to a same-sex couple who may want perform a ceremony in a specific church. The discretion of whether or not to allow same-sex marriage in a specific religious establishment is up to that establishment, not the state.

LGBT Divorce Law

Similar to the effect that Obergefell v. Hodges had on marriage law in the state of Ohio, it has had an equally powerful effect on divorce law in the state of Ohio in regards to the LGBT community. Because the state of Ohio is required to recognize same-sex marriages as being legal, it must permit a same-sex couple to obtain a divorce if they choose to.

A same-sex couple seeking out a divorce from one another must go through the same legal process as any other couple seeking out a divorce.

How this typically works is the one seeking out a divorce will file a complaint with the grounds for the divorce. The spouse would then serve the divorce papers on the other, and that person would file an answer to the complaint in which they would admit or deny the grounds for divorce. After this has occurred, the same-sex couple would be required to attend one or multiple hearings with the court and eventually a trial if necessary.

There are other options for ending a marriage or union besides divorce. While this process is not necessarily the easiest or quickest option, it is now available to the LGBT community the same as it was to opposite-sex couples in the past.

LGBT Custody Law

In the past, the state of Ohio would only recognize one individual as a “parent” when it came to same-sex couples and the LGBT community. Therefore, in adoption cases or in situations where one individual in a same-sex couple was a second parent or step-parent, that individual would not be legally recognized in that role.

Obergefell v. Hodges changed all of this when it required the state of Ohio to legally recognize same-sex marriage. Now same-sex couples are allowed to legally adopt a child because both individuals in a same-sex relationship can be recognized as a parent or legal guardian. The same applies with second parent situations, legal guardian situations, and step-parent situations.