COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Ohio will not be required to recognize the legal marriage of gay couples statewide, pending appeal of a ruling that struck down a state ban, but it must recognize the unions of the couples who challenged the law, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.
Judge Timothy Black on Monday struck down Ohio's ban on recognizing the marriage of same-sex couples wed legally outside the state, but did not address the state's ban on same-sex marriage within the state. Both were enacted in 2004.
Black's ruling in Ohio was the latest by a federal judge supporting an expansion of gay rights since the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that legally married same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits.
Black said he believed the state was unlikely to prevail in the appeal, and would not be harmed irreparably by complying with the U.S. Constitution, the public interest would be served best by a stay to avoid potential confusion during the appeal.
"Premature celebration and confusion do not serve anyone's best interests. The federal appeals courts need to rule, as does the United States Supreme Court," Black wrote in an order.
Black said, however, that the legally wed gay couples who brought the challenge would be harmed irreparably. He ordered Ohio to issue birth certificates for the plaintiffs' children that list both lawfully married same-sex spouses as parents.
Ohio's attorney general is appealing Black's ruling and had asked the judge to stay his order except for the issuance of birth certificates requested by the couples who challenged the ban.
Three female same-sex couples expecting children conceived by anonymous donors within months and a male couple with an Ohio-born adopted son who want the children's birth certificates to reflect both parents challenged the recognition ban.
Seventeen U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. That number would increase substantially if a spate of federal court rulings striking down bans in several states are upheld on appeal.
(Reporting by Jo Ingles in Columbus and David Bailey in Minneapolis; editing by Gunna Dickson)