Judge To End Ohio Ban on Recognizing Gay Marriage

A federal judge in Ohio said Friday he will strike down the state's ban on gay marriage, a move that doesn't compel the state to perform same-sex weddings but forces Ohio to recognize gay couples legally wed elsewhere.

Judge Timothy Black announced he intends to issue a ruling on April 14 prohibiting officials from enforcing the voter-approved law that does not recognize marriages of same-sex couples from other states.

The case was brought by three lesbian couples who want the names of both parents listed on their babies’ birth certificates, according to lead counsel, Al Gerhardstein.

"In Ohio, a husband is named on a child’s birth certificate and legally recognized as the 'natural father' even when his wife becomes pregnant through artificial insemination and he is not a biological parent. Plaintiffs seek the same treatment," argued Gerhardstein.

“The freedom to marry is now in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Ohio should recognize these marriages as equal in every respect to the out-of-state marriages of opposite-sex couples,” Gerhardstein added.

The plaintiffs did not ask Black to order the state to perform gay marriages, and he did not say he would do so.

“Our case does not involve forcing Ohio to permit same-sex marriages within the state. That case has not yet been filed,” Gerhardstein told NBC News.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald said in a statement, “Today’s statement by federal judge Timothy Black that his ruling will require that Ohio must legally recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in other states is an important first step to full marriage equality.”

Black said same-sex couples in Ohio are “denied their fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married."

Attorneys for the state argued that it's Ohio's sole province to define marriage as between a man and a woman, that the statewide gay marriage ban doesn't violate any fundamental rights and that attorneys improperly expanded their originally narrow lawsuit.

The state has time to prepare an appeal, since Black announced his intent 10 days before the official ruling. “There is a possibility that Judge Black will stay his ruling until it is reviewed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Gerhardstein said.

In a limited ruling in December, Black ordered Ohio to recognize gay marriage on death certificates. The state appealed that ruling, and the case is pending.

— Elisha Fieldstadt

The Associated Press contributed to this report.