In a 6-1 vote, the Ohio State Supreme Court reversed lower court decisions denying a request by Lesbian couple Belinda Lou Priddy and Jennifer Lane Bicknell to change their last names.
Their court battle began when the couple sought the mutual last name Rylen, made from letters of their present last names, in February 2000. At the time, Bicknell was pregnant and the couple wanted to share a last name with their child. Ohio magistrate Charles Pater cited "divine edict" and "natural law" in refusing the name change.
The couple then took their case to probate judge Randy Rogers, who removed the reference to "divine edict" from Pater's decision, but left intact its appeal to "natural law", and further cited a 1991 law ending common-law marriages as evidence that Ohio public policy "promotes legal marriages and withholds official sanction from non- marital cohabitation." The Court of Appeals agreed with Rogers that granting the name change would contravene Ohio's statutes favoring marriage and discouraging cohabitation, by a 2-1 vote.
In reversing the lower courts, the Ohio Supreme Court said that the only question facing the lower courts was whether or not the applicants had followed the proper procedure, and were not changing their names to evade creditors. "Any discussion, then, on the sanctity of marriage, the well-being of society or the state's endorsement of nonmarital cohabitation is wholly inappropriate and without basis in law or fact."
In casting the only dissenting vote, Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Republican nominee for re-election this fall, accused the majority of "judicial legislation."
Copyright © August 19, 2002 by Bruce A. Garrett
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