Budish Administration Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Marriage Equality

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Emily Lundgard, (216) 348-4395

County Law Department files amicus brief with Justice Kennedy, highlights impact of upcoming ruling on DCFS families

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced today that the Cuyahoga County Law Department filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of marriage equality.

“It’s disturbing that Ohio is one of just 13 states today that still does not have full marriage equality for all of its citizens,” said Budish. “This is about jobs, and it’s about human rights. Cuyahoga County should welcome all people to work and live here. And for more than a decade, LGBT couples in our state have been denied equal rights under the law. Our employees in the Division of Children and Family Services have seen firsthand the damage this law inflicts on entire families. Cuyahoga County urges the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down this and other bans on marriage equality as unconstitutional.”

Later this year, the United States Supreme Court will review Federal court decisions from Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. As the largest child welfare agency in the State of Ohio, Cuyahoga County has a vested interested in the Court’s decision and the impact it will have on families receiving services and benefits through the Division of Children and Family (DCFS) Services.

Over the last decade, DCFS workers have witnessed firsthand the ways that Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage has negatively impacted children and denied their families equal rights under the law. According to County caseworkers, several children have articulated their anxiety that their family could be torn apart.

Since Ohio does not recognize same-sex marriage only one person in a same-sex marriage can legally be identified as a child’s “parent.” Accordingly, the death of one parent could result in the removal of a child from the home and the denial of visitation rights to the second parent.

In addition, children in a same-sex household can face challenges in accessing medical care and important social service programs that children of heterosexual parents will not encounter. In many cases, their parent will be denied hospital visitation rights because of the State law. The stigma of being in a family that is not recognized as ‘legitimate’ makes some children more likely to be bullied, and County caseworkers suggest that the resulting psychological damage may last well beyond childhood.

“Children of same-sex couples in Ohio are impacted by the ban on marriage equality every day, whether they are in DCFS custody or home with their parents,” added Jennifer Croessmann, who serves on the Cuyahoga County DCFS LGBTQ Committee. “The same struggles that challenge heterosexual relationships may leave same sex relationships in perpetual discord. This is because the challenges will not go away unless the ban is lifted.”

“It’s unfortunate that while most of our country has moved forward to protect equal rights for all Americans, Ohio continues to lag behind,” said County Councilwoman Sunny Simon. “No one should ever be denied full protection under the law because of who they love, and the action that our Law Department is taking will make it clear that Cuyahoga County is standing on the right side of history.”

When issuing a writ of certiorari to review the cases, the Court indicated that it would consider two questions:

1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state?

In 2013, the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in its ruling on U.S. v. Windsor. The County’s upcoming amicus brief will cite Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision, which reads, in part:

“The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence, 539 U.S. 558, 123 S. Ct. 2472, 156 L. Ed. 2d 508, and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives."

Recognition is due to Cuyahoga County Law Department staff for their countless hours of work and to Cleveland State University Marshall College of Law Professor Doron M. Kalir who assisted the Law Department’s attorneys on a volunteer basis.