Gay Cincinnati couple file federal lawsuit asking Ohio to legally recognize their marriage

CINCINNATI - Two Cincinnati men who married in Maryland last week filed a federal lawsuit Friday claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio not to recognize their marriage.

While the marriage of John Arthur and Jim Obergefell of Over-the-Rhine is legal in Maryland, it is not in Ohio.

The suit, filed by the couple, states the way the law treats marriages between opposite-sex couples is unfairly different from the way it treats marriages between same-sex couples.

"It's blatant discrimination," said the couple's attorney Al Gerhardstein. "It's a denial of equal protection."

The suit points to an example of a marriage between first cousins. In Ohio, it is illegal. But if first cousins go to another state and marry where it is legal, Ohio will recognize their out of state marriage as valid.

"Equal protection demands that opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples should be treated the same," Gerhardstein said in a release. "John and James were validly married in Maryland. If they were an opposite sex couple, Ohio would recognize their marriage. Being a same-sex couple is no longer a good enough reason to deny them equal rights."

Gerhardstein says the suit filed Friday has importance beyond the law. The couple is running out of time.

Two years ago, Arthur was diagnosed with ALS, also referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no known cure or treatment today that halts or reverses ALS.

The two tied the knot on an airport tarmac in Baltimore after receiving donations from friends, family and other connections to cover the cost of a $12,700 chartered, medically-equipped private plane, the New York Daily News reports.

Once they touched down in Baltimore, they married in a seven-and-a-half minute ceremony. But when they returned home, things got complicated.

"We want nothing more than for our marriage to count in the place we call home," Obergefell said in a release. "When (Arthur) dies, his death certificate should reflect our marriage just like the records of all the other married couples in Ohio."

Obergefell said he hopes this case can be one small step toward "making marriage equality a reality" in Ohio and all 50 states.

The couple's case is pending before United States District Court Judge Timothy Black in Cinncinati.

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