Tish and Carrie Johnson, of Middletown, say now that the U.S. Supreme Court has swept away the last bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio and 12 other states, their wedding planning can begin.
“It’s a longtime coming,” said Tish Johnson. “It’s a big day for me. I have looked forward to this day all my life. It’s a big relief.”
The couple, who have been together since 2010, said even though they have felt married since a commitment ceremony in 2011 at Sebald Park in Middletown, they will be happy to be legally be defined as such.
Butler County Bar Association President Damon Halverson said this decision will likely see “unprecedented litigation” in terms of in recognizing marriages in other states, as well as divorce, and retroactively determining insurance and pension claims.
“There’s no precedent. It’s all going to be first impression for common pleas, court of appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court,” said the 39-year-old Butler County attorney. “I’m excited about the idea of my generation of lawyers are the ones that will be the generation that’s going to ground break this issue.”
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Cincinnati-based attorney Scott Knox said this decision “clears up a lot of rights” for his clients, such as social security benefits, and provides security for those in the GLBTQ community, and provides “much more security for gay couples and families.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner, who represents the 8th Ohio Congressional District that includes Butler County, said he had some disappointment in the ruling.
“All human beings are created equal by God and thus deserve to be treated with love, dignity and respect. I am, however, disappointed that the Supreme Court disregarded the democratically enacted will of millions of Americans by forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage,” he said. “My views are based on my upbringing and my faith. I believe that marriage is a sacred vow between one man and one woman, and I believe Americans should be able to live and work according to their beliefs.”
Phil Burress of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, called the decision a “travesty,” adding the “Supreme Court has turned into the legislative branch and is legislating from the bench.”
The case on whether same-sex couples can marry is really the continuation of the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia, the landmark 1967 civil rights decision, said Madelyn Detloff, Associate Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Miami University. She said this Supreme Court ruling nearly 50 years ago invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
“It gives same sex couples the same standing as heterosexual couples when it comes to their families and their lives,” she said. “It’s about giving the same opportunities. That’s really important because of the struggles gay and lesbian people who are in the relationship of someone with same sex.”
She said Friday’s ruling said not only are marriages performed in other states must be recognized, but that state laws prohibiting same sex marriages “abridge the central precepts of equality.”
“I am overwhelmed with a sense of relief that this particular burden of second-class citizenship has been lifted off of my shoulders and the shoulders of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in the U.S.,” Detloff said.
The decision is more than just about same-sex marriage, Detloff said. Not all in the GLBTQ community will rush out to get married, or even have a desire to be married, she said. What it does is allow all in the GLBTQ community to be “treated with dignity” in the eyes of the law, she said.
“It’s not about the ceremony,” she said. “It’s much more about the everyday things that allow a family to operate when they need to come together in their times of crisis,” she said. “It doesn’t mean everyone has to like it. It means that we respect each other for each other as humans.”
The Rev. Michael Brooks, pastor at New Thought Unity Center in Cincinnati, is one of a host of wedding officiants in Greater Cincinnati willing marry same-sex couples, and said he’s happy that this nation was able to “move forward” as a society but is “kind of saddened” it had to come down to a government issue.
“I think it’s time has come and there’s that old quote that ‘nothing is more powerful than an idea that’s time has come,’” he said. “We as human beings should not be told how to love each other.”
While he said he understands there will be many vocal people who disagree with this ruling, but maybe they would think differently if they had someone who was gay or lesbian, as well as bisexual or transgender.
“I think we’re always going to have people who disagree regardless of how many decisions or what decisions we make,” he said. “But they have a right to disagree.”
“There was a point in time where this nation didn’t perceive people of color as equals … and this is somewhere along the same lines. This is human rights.”
After the ruling handed down by the nation’s highest court, Butler County Probate Court, which issues marriage licenses, resulted in a change immediately.
“We have changed the forms, applicant 1 and applicant 2,” said Probate Judge Randy Rogers. He said at by noon the staff had received a couple calls inquiring about applications.
“I have instructed the staff that we will abide by the majority ruling,” Rogers said.
Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark W. Wall performs about 100 marriages a year and that includes couples from all over Butler County as well as Preble County. He anticipates he will have more business with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I believe where it will come is some will have the sacrament in a church and come to me to sign off (on the documents),” Wall said.
Staff Writer Lauren Pack and the Cox Media Washington Bureau contributed to this story.