Ohio Supreme Court justices carried out a controversial decision Tuesday to stop using gender-specific terms, such as "husband," "wife," "father" and "mother," on all government rules and forms, opting instead to use gender-neutral terms. The gender neutrality approach immediately became effective in the state March 15.
In a statement released Monday by Ohio court spokesman Bret Crow, the decision came as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage via the June 26, 2015, decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Case No. 14-556, in which those court justices ruled 5-4 that state level bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional.
Last year when SCOTUS ruled in favor of same-sex marriages, Ohio's Supreme Court members issued guidance to local courts that instructed them to treat related forms as gender neutral. This week's step was technically the court following through to release revised copies of those forms.
"The terms husband, wife, father, mother, parent, spouse and others were to 'be construed as gender neutral where appropriate' and to remain in effect until the rules and forms were 'amended to reflect the changes contained in this Order,'" Court News Ohio reports.
"Ohio Supreme Court rules and forms that address marriage and the related topics of divorce, child support, guardianships, adoption, domestic relations, and domestic violence have been amended to remove gender-specific terms."
Ohio's ban of same-sex marriages, passed overwhelmingly in 2004 by voters, was one of 13 referenda approved laws that were struck down in this week's new decision.
Years earlier, the highest court in the state was known to be supportive of the traditional marriage definition side of the debate.
LGBTQ organizations and individuals acknowledged on social media sites that Ohio took a "fabulous step to make things more inclusive for everyone." One person online said all states will do this in time: "When I got married in NY, the form just said spouse."
Todd Taylor on Facebook stated: "Those of us that are gender confirmed (can't think of a better word for it) think this may not be necessary. Think in terms of those that are trans-gendered. This means a lot for them."
On the other hand, Jeff Robinson said he didn't get the reasoning behind gender-neutral terms just because gay marriage got passed. He offered the following rationale: "Do you, Bob, take Neal to be your lawful husband.....I do." "Do you, Neal, take Bob to be your lawful husband.....I do. " He asked, "Are you still not a husband, a wife, a mother or a father?"