Metro

Ruling creates conflicting emotions in Ohio

Mindy Ross (left) and Jimmie Beall celebrated Friday after paying for their marriage license in Columbus, Ohio, where a  constitutional ban on same-sex nuptials has been in place since 2004.
Chris Russell/Columbus Dispatch via Associated Press
Mindy Ross (left) and Jimmie Beall celebrated Friday after paying for their marriage license in Columbus, Ohio, where a constitutional ban on same-sex nuptials has been in place since 2004.

MEDINA, Ohio — Jeneatte Morgan is a churchgoing Christian. She also has a gay cousin who just got married in Pennsylvania. And in the hours after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country Friday, she was still struggling, like many of her neighbors, to reconcile conflicting emotions.

“I don’t know yet,” she said as she walked through Medina Square in northeast Ohio. “I love the gay couples I know, and I believe our God is a loving God, but I have mixed feelings.”

A few steps away, in the county courthouse, probate clerks said they had received a few phone calls from gay couples, but no marriage applications. They answered further questions by handing over a statement from Judge Kevin W. Dunn saying the court “is prepared to follow this decision . . . and issue marriage licenses to all couples.”

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In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for more than a decade, Friday’s decision will have no real legal impact. But in Ohio, where gay unions have never been legal, the court decision is a watershed moment that will force citizens to confront questions of morality, community, and family that had been held at bay by a 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex nuptials.

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The lead plaintiff in the case was a Cincinnati man named James Obergefell, whose marriage in Maryland was not recognized under Ohio law. His spouse, John Arthur, died, and Obergefell sued to force the state to recognize their marriage on the death certificate.

The court’s decision not only forced Ohio and 11 other states to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere; it also gave gay couples the right to marry in every state.

Politicians and county courts in Ohio pledged to respect the decision, but some made no secret of their opposition. Governor John Kasich, a Republican who is contemplating a run for president, said he will abide by the decision but still believes in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

Meanwhile, gay couples were jubilant. Some immediately applied for marriage licenses. One couple got married in the hours after the decision on the streets of Columbus. Still others celebrated by quickly rearranging their wedding plans.

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“We’re moving it up to next month on the 12th,” said Raisa Mathis, 25, who originally planned to marry her girlfriend, Michelle Fritz, in 2016.

“Everyone wants their humanity to be recognized,” Mathis added. “Everyone wants the respect and space to build something out of love.”

Mathis and Fritz celebrated the court’s ruling in the Columbus office of Equality Ohio, where they both work. Workers and volunteers kept their eyes trained on the Supreme Court’s official blog Friday morning until the new broke and a huge cheer filled the office.

At the Valley Cafe in Wadsworth, Arianna Jones, 20, also celebrated the news, although she acknowledged she had struggled with her feelings on the issue. A devout Christian, she still believes God’s will is for marriage to be between a man and a woman.

“But in my religion you have to love people and not judge people,” Jones said. “Everybody has a right to choose who they want to marry.”

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The Ohio Legislature passed a defense of marriage law in 2003, and the next year voters approved an amendment prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages.

Kim Thurber, 55, said she lives by the Bible and does not support same-sex marriage. She said she also believes that states — and not the federal government — should be able to define marriage as they see fit.

“I personally think the people should be able to decide those things,” Thurber said. “Government should not make those decisions for us.”

Josh Booth, a father of three, offered strong support for the court’s decision. He said he was at Home Depot when he got a news alert about the decision and immediately texted his wife.

“We’re both thrilled,” he said, adding that opinions have shifted since the 2004 law was passed. “I’m doing everything I can to teach my kids that this is how it’s going to be. One of my missions as a parent is to teach them to be accepting and loving and embrace everybody.”

In Louisville, Ky., Benjamin Moore and Tadd Roberts wore matching tuxedos to the county clerk’s office to get married Friday, and the mayor greeted them with champagne.

They were among a rush of couples across the South and Midwest who celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage with spontaneous weddings. Celebrants were young and old, they wore gowns and suits, or T-shirts and jeans, they kissed and waved flags that read ‘‘love wins.’’

‘‘It’s just been incredible and historic and amazing to live this moment,’’ Moore said, after the mayor took commemorative photos of him and Roberts getting their license.

But the reaction wasn’t so welcoming in some of the 14 states that had been the last holdouts .

In rural Alabama, the heart of the battle against gay marriage, Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen will stop issuing marriage licenses to avoid having to give them to gay couples. Allen said Alabama law gives judges the option of granting licenses, and ‘‘I have chosen not to perform that function.’’

Governors in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas also railed against the ruling. And clerks in some of the affected states refused to issue licenses, citing a three-week grace period allowed by the Supreme Court or forms now out of date that specify ‘‘bride’’ and ‘‘groom.’’

The Human Rights Campaign sent letters to the governors of the 14 affected states warning that delaying issuing marriage licenses would be unlawful.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.