Ohio Gay Marriage Ban Faces Federal Judges

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Update 5:10 p.m. A state official says that Ohio has traditionally defined marriage as between a man and woman, and that same-sex marriage is too new to be considered a deeply rooted, fundamental right.

State solicitor Eric Murphy argued Wednesday in favor of the ban on same-sex marriage passed by Ohio voters a decade ago. A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati was considering bans in four states.

Attorney Al Gerhardstein of Cincinnati countered that Ohio's refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages violates the dignity of same-sex couples. He said it also amounts to unique discrimination because Ohio has historically recognized marriages in other states that wouldn't be legal in Ohio, such as between cousins or involving minors.

It's not known when the judges will rule.

A federal appeals court will hear arguments in gay marriage fights from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee in the biggest session of its kind so far.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will consider arguments in the cases Wednesday.

Two Ohio cases involving marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples are among six cases before the court.

One involves two gay men whose spouses were dying. They sued to be listed as surviving spouses on their husbands' death certificates and for their spouses to be listed as having been married. In the other, four couples sued to have both spouses listed on children's birth certificates.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says voters decided in 2004 that marriage is between a man and a woman, and he'll continue to defend that decision.

The cases pit states' rights and traditional, conservative values against what plaintiffs' attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, gay marriage advocates have won more than 20 victories in federal courts.

No decision has gone the other way in that time. Observers say the 6th Circuit panel could be the first to deliver a victory to gay marriage opponents.