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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 14
Ohio judge grants Gay divorce, raises legal questions
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Ohio judge grants Gay divorce, raises legal questions

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two men married in New York on September 1 last year were divorced by an Ohio judge on March 26.

Jonathan E. Baize and Stephen J. Wissman were granted a divorce by Judge Donald A. Cox after a 10-minute, 'unremarkable' hearing, said attorney Thomas J. Addesa. Addesa represented Baize in the case.

Cox is a private judge appointed by the Franklin County Domestic Relations Court, which has jurisdiction over divorce and other family issues.

This is believed to be the first same-sex divorce approved in Ohio since same-sex marriage was barred by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004. The amendment defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

The Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, the group that spearheaded the effort to pass the constitutional ban, filed a brief in the case, arguing that since Ohio did not recognize the men's marriage, it could not grant them a divorce.

The group's lawyer, David Langdon, argued that granting the couple a divorce actually acknowledged the validity of their marriage.

There is no indication that the judge considered the group's argument, Addesa said.

'Unfortunately, there are and probably always will be a few rogue judges who are going to ignore the Constitution. For our part, we will continue to urge them to uphold it,' Langdon wrote in an e-mail to The Columbus Dispatch.

Addesa said the divorce of a same-sex couple does not 'speak to the same-sex marriage prohibition.' The constitutional amendment and state law refer to marriage, not divorce, he noted.

Because the divorce had the mutual agreement of Baize and Wissman, it was handled by a private judge appointed by the court. Cox, a former county and appellate judge, specializes in 'alternative dispute resolution.'

According to Judicial Alternatives of Ohio, Cox 'hears almost 1,000 divorces and dissolutions a year in Ohio' and has been assigned to cases in 25 counties.

In February 2011, a Texas judge granted a divorce to a Lesbian couple who had been married in Massachusetts.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a motion to undo the ruling on the grounds that the judge did not have the proper authority to grant the divorce because Texas has a constitutional ban on Gay marriage. The judge, however, ruled that Abbott's motion was not timely, the Associated Press reported.

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