Impeachment Sought for Judge in Ohio Marriage Case

Ohio’s constitution bans marriage of same-sex couples, but a federal judge recently recognized the marriage of a same-sex Ohio couple who wed out-of-state. Now Republican state Rep. John Becker (photo) has urged the start of impeachment proceedings against the judge for “malfeasance and abuse of power.”

Becker urged U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, to launch impeachment proceedings against Federal District Judge Timothy S. Black, according to a Cincinnati.com article. Here is Wenstrup’s reply:

“While Judge Black’s ruling violated the Ohio Constitution and the will of Ohio voters, the question of whether this decision also violated the U.S. Constitution remains before a higher court. I will watch those appellate proceedings closely to see if Judge Black’s decision is upheld and I have full confidence in the Ohio’s office of the Attorney General during the appeals process.”

When Judge Black recognized earlier this year the marriage of James Obergefell and John Arthur, who were wed in Maryland, he wrote, “This is not a complicated case.” He went on, according to the Washington Post,  “The issue is whether the State of Ohio can discriminate against same sex marriages lawfully solemnized out of state, when Ohio law has historically and unambiguously provided that the validity of a marriage is determined by whether it complies with the law of the jurisdiction where it was celebrated.”

It is not the first time that critics have sought impeachment of judges over rulings in cases involving the marriage of same-sex couples. Some Iowa lawmakers vowed in 2011 to impeach four justices who joined a 7-0 opinion that struck down a ban on marriage of same-sex couples.

JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote at the time a Washington Post op-ed entitled, “End this war on judges.” He noted that no federal or state judge had been impeached for judicial opinion or philosophy since the earliest days of our nation, and he added:

The debate may have started over same-sex marriage, but the specter of impeachment has transformed it into an assault on constitutional government….

“Impeachments of judges were not designed as a tool for this kind of political disagreement, and the reason is essential to our democracy. If courts can’t make tough calls, they won’t be able to uphold the Constitution and protect our rights.”

Judge Black issued a temporary restraining order that recognized one of the couple as the other’s spouse, in the context of one of them nearing death.

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