By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com September 23 2013 12:44 PM ET
An Ohio lawmaker wants to impeach the federal judge who declared the state must recognize the same-sex marriage of a terminally ill gay man and his husband, claiming the judge's ruling violated "state sovereignty."
State Rep. John Becker, a Republican who represents Union Township, penned a letter to one of Ohio's representatives in the U.S. House asking the fellow republican to initiate impeachment proceedings against Judge Timothy Black.
Black is a federal district judge who, in July, ruled that Ohio must recognize the marriage of John Arthur and James Obergefell, who flew to Maryland to marry earlier in July because Arthur is terminally ill with ALS. The newlywed couple sued the state of Ohio in an effort to require the state coroner to list Arthur as married on his death certificate, and list Obergefell as Arthur's surviving spouse. On July 22, Judge Black used no uncertain terms in finding in the couple's favor, writing that "this is not a complicated case," and ordering the Ohio registrar — and by extension, the state itself — to recognize the legal marriage between Arthur and Obergefell.
Ohio voters amended their state constitution to forbid marriage equality in 2004, though Black's ruling in the Arthur-Obergefell case determined that the state law "likely violate[s] the U.S. Constitution… by treating lawful same-sex marriages differently than it treats opposite-sex marriages."
In September, Black also ruled that Ohio must recognize the marriage of another gay couple after one spouse died unexpectedly in late August. David Michener of Cincinatti will be listed as the spouse of his husband William Herbert Ives on Ives' death certificate, Black ruled. The couple, together for 18 years, married in Delaware this summer, after raising three children together. Ives died unexpectedly on August 27.
But according to the state lawmaker, Black's rulings amount to a "malfeasance and abuse of power."
In his letter to Wenstrup, Becker expresses his "concerns about the federal government's ever growing propensity to violate state sovereignty," noting that federal judges are appointed for life, and the only way to remove such a justice is for the House of Representatives to vote to impeach the jurist, followed by a concurring vote from the U.S. Senate.
"Judge Black has demonstrated his incompetence by allowing his personal political bias to supersede jurisprudence," Becker wrote in the letter, obtained by the Cincinatti Enquirer. "This will begin the process of restoring state sovereignty back to the original intent of the Constitution."
U.S. Rep. Wenstrup issued a statement clarifying that he'll take no legal action until a federal appeal of Black's rulings makes its way through the court.
"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. Constitition remains before a higher court," Wenstrup said in his statement. "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."