The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release its decision either today, Friday or Monday in the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which could legalize same sex marriage across the country.
It is widely expected that the court will rule in favor of the right to marriage for same sex couples, and the Delaware County Probate Court is ready.
“It’s our job to be prepared,” said Judge Dave Hejmanowski. “We have to be ready to deal with whatever they do.”
Hejmanowksi said that the court will be prepared to comply with the ruling, likely within an hour of the decision.
“We’ll need time to get through it and make sure we are interpreting it correctly,” he said, adding: “This is a fairly instantaneous thing. Whatever the decision is, it’s going to be immediately effective.”
The court will need to make two “simple changes” to modify paperwork to comply with the high court’s decision, including removing the terms “bride” and “groom” from marriage license applications and the prefixes “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from the actual licenses.
Those are “changes that we could make within minutes,” according to Hejmanowski.
In the event the high court sides with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and upholds the ban on same sex marriage in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, nothing will change for the Delaware County Probate Court.
The Supreme Court could go in a third direction, and rule that same sex marriages performed and recognized in other states must also be recognized and fully protected by law in states that do not allow for same sex marriage.
“I think a lot of court watchers and commentators says that is an unlikely conclusion,” said Hejmanowski.
If the high court rules as expected and legalizes same sex marriage across the country, Hejmanowski said he does not expect an influx of gay and lesbian couples immediately seeking marriage licenses. However, he said his court is prepared in the event that he is wrong.
“If the decision is long and if it is in favor of same sex marriage, my only request to folks would be to have patience with us,” he said, explaining it will take a short amount of time to read and interpret the decision.
No matter the contents of the decision, Hejmanowski and his court will be ready to comply.
“Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to follow what the Supreme Court tells us in this area,” he said.
Same sex marriage has been illegal in the state since February 2004, when then-Gov. Bob Taft signed the Ohio Defense of Marriage Act into law. Voters across the state also approved a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage later in 2004. Both acts prevent the state from recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states.
The case that could overturn Ohio’s ban on same sex marriage stems from a lawsuit filed by a Cincinnati widower who sought recognition on a death certificate after his husband died of ALS. The couple was legally married in Maryland in 2013.