COLUMBUS — A Republican justice on the Ohio Supreme Court says the legal obstacles facing his lesbian daughter, her partner and their two children have made him view the state’s protections for same-sex couples and their families as inadequate.
The comments by Justice Paul Pfeifer come as the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could settle the issue across the nation once and for all.
He said his daughter, Lisa, has a partner and two children, ages 9 and 5, whom he and his wife consider grandchildren. But under Ohio law, his daughter has no parental rights.
“Gay and lesbian couples who sit down, plan to take on the awesome responsibility of having or adopting children, go see a lawyer and draft up all the documents you can think of, they still don’t establish parenthood, and they can’t because of the constitutional prohibition,” he told The Associated Press. “And that’s just not right.”
Pfeifer is the latest high-profile Ohio Republican to speak publicly about having a gay child. He first disclosed Lisa Pfeifer’s family situation in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman made waves among GOP conservatives last year by dropping his previous opposition to gay marriage after learning one of his sons is gay, and former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, whose daughter is lesbian, has backed a statewide campaign to overturn Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
An appeal was filed Friday in the U.S. Supreme Court after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Ohio’s gay-marriage ban and those of three other states last week.
Pfeifer said reading last week’s court decision prompted him go public with his family’s situation.
“It has always been my view that someone as fortunate as me to hold high public office from time to time needs to speak out on important and sometimes controversial issues of the day,” he said. “That’s been my philosophy over my entire career in public office and, as I read that, I thought it’s really time for me to step up and say something.”
Pfeifer said that he’s not weighing in on the question of whether gay marriage should or shouldn’t be legal — but that he doesn’t believe language on the subject, pro or con, belongs in the state’s Constitution. He told the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission during a hearing Thursday that “it’s creating a mess.”
Pfeifer said he believes members of the commission agree with his position.
“I think the question for them is, ‘Do we want to get in the middle of this, when we’re doing what some might consider rather boring but important work?’” he said.
Pfeifer said his daughter’s partner, Rachel Rubey, gave birth to their children — a girl and boy — and his daughter, the non-biological parent, has no parental rights under Ohio law. State law also allows only one person in a same-sex couple to adopt, he said.
“Any guy on a one-night stand who fathers a child can go into court in Ohio, prove parentage, force a DNA test if that’s in dispute, and have the full legal rights of a parent for the rest of that child’s life (until age 18),” Pfeifer said.
Pfeifer said if Ohio’s gay-marriage ban were removed from the constitution, state lawmakers would be able to address parentage, property and other “practical problems” facing Ohio courts when it comes to same-sex couples. He said both the courts’ and the Legislature’s hands are tied because of the ban.