- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - Same-sex marriages began Friday across Ohio within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that rejected the state’s 2004 ban and allowed such unions anywhere in the country.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley officiated at a simple ceremony just before noon for Tim Walsh and Kery Gray, concluding with: “I declare that you are now husband and husband according to the laws of the state of Ohio.”

In Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Probate Court issued 18 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and Judge Anthony Russo officiated at six weddings.

“We’re like any couple. Now we’re like any married couple,” said Christopher Richardson, who married his partner of 18 years, Keith Garrett.

In Cincinnati, Mayor John Cranley married five couples on the downtown Fountain Square late in the afternoon as hundreds of onlookers snapped photos and cheered.

“A year ago, I would have told you this wouldn’t have happened,” said Barbara Eisenhardt, 61, who married her partner of 20 years, Tiffany Wahl, 51, saying they were glad they waited to get married in Ohio after previously considering going to another state.

Top Ohio officials who have defended the voter-passed ban, including Attorney General Mike DeWine and Gov. John Kasich, said they continue to believe in marriage as between a man and woman.

But the governor also said the court’s decision should be respected. “That’s the law of the land,” Kasich said. “That’s the way that America functions.”

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati had propelled the issue to the Supreme Court with a 2-1 ruling last November supporting bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.

On Friday, the lead plaintiff in the case received a congratulatory phone call and thanks for his efforts from President Barack Obama.

“Our love is equal,” said Jim Obergefell, a Cincinnati man who has been in Washington awaiting the ruling. He and his dying partner, John Arthur, got married in 2013 aboard a specially equipped medical plane on a tarmac in Maryland. Arthur died three months later, but the couple initiated a lawsuit over the issue of their marriage’s recognition on Arthur’s death certificate soon after returning home.

“This is for you, John,” Obergefell told reporters outside the court Friday.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he welcomed the high court’s decision “as a father.” Portman announced in 2013 that he was changing his position to support same-sex marriage following his son Will’s disclosure to him and his wife that he is gay.

Some conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage have said they won’t support Portman’s re-election bid. Meanwhile, two announced Democratic contenders for his seat, former Gov. Ted Strickland and Cincinnati councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, praised the ruling as a victory for equality.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Cincinnati said the high court disregarded the will of voters in Ohio and other states, besides disregarding an understanding of marriage shared by virtually all cultures until recently.

“Every nation has laws limiting who and under what circumstances people can be married,” Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, who oversees a diocese of 500,000 Catholics in 19 counties, said in a statement. “This is because lawmakers have always understood that marriage does not exist just for the mutual satisfaction of the two people involved, but for the betterment of society.”

A longtime conservative activist against gay marriage said he wasn’t surprised but was nevertheless “devastated” by the ruling.

Phil Burress, who leads the Citizens for Community Values, predicted there will be a flood of lawsuits against Christian-owned businesses and churches that oppose same-sex marriage, with “persecution of those who believe same-sex unions are wrong.”

Officials at the county courthouse in Toledo called in another minister to perform same-sex marriages on Friday because the rotating minister on duty won’t marry gay couples, said the Rev. Sandra Frost, who married the first couple around noon.


Associated Press writers Jennifer Smola, Kantele Franko and Ann Sanner in Columbus, John Seewer in Toledo, Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati and Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this report.


Contact the reporter at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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