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July 25, 2014 9:28 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are having a wedding in two months. We'd like to get legally married before the ceremony, but can't decide what the best option for us would be. My partner is a man, but here in Ohio it isn't possible for him to change his birth certificate to match this. Do we go to another state to marry, or try to get a license in Ohio?

This issue is causing my partner a lot of stress, and the laws regarding marriage equality are in such a state of flux that I am pretty baffled. We would prefer to be able to get a license in Ohio, but my partner's birth certificate and (he thinks most likely) his social security information both have the incorrect sex. We are worried we won't be able to get a marriage license, or it will later be nullified.

Our other option is to get married in a state with marriage equality. As far as I'm aware there is still a stay on the ruling that Ohio must recognize out of state same sex marriages, but we would still be recognized as married under federal law. I'm starting to think this might be the best option for us, but I know the idea can be triggering for my partner.

We would both really appreciate any advice you can give us. We just want to be happily married! If we do end up going to a state with marriage equality, do you have any recommendations in particular? In an ideal world we could apply for a license, pay our fee, and be married right there at the same time.
posted by dinofuzz to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Luckily for you, you are (almost) surrounded by states with "gay" marriage! At least on both sides. Rules will vary not just state by state, but also county by county and city by city. You can check them out one by one.

That all sounds complicated, and yes Ohio is a current mess. So we cordially invite you to New York City. There is a 24-hour waiting period, which is the perfect time. Come, apply for and get a license, which costs all of $35, go do something fun and romantic, and come back the next day to get married at the Marriage Bureau, which costs all of $25. It's literally the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

(Everything you need to know to get married in NYC.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:51 AM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: In an ideal world we could apply for a license, pay our fee, and be married right there at the same time.

This is a lot of the difficulty, as a lot of states have waiting periods.

The cross section of states that have marriage equality and no waiting periods is California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It's a pretty small list, and none of them are geographically super convenient to Ohio.

It looks like Pennsylvania has a 3 day waiting period, but both of you have to appear together (one county's instructions can be found here: ; marriage laws are usually state based but county administered, such a pain). Are you close enough to the border that depending on your work schedules, you two could take a Friday off and run over and get the license, and then run back say, then next Friday and do the courthouse thing?

Depending on where you are in Ohio, Maryland's not that far either, and I have to say that we had a really good experience with Maryland. They have a 48 hour waiting period, kind of - the license is good at 6am on day two after you pick it up, so we got our license on Tuesday and it was good at 6am on Thursday. So, the wife-type person (we haven't done the social ceremony yet) and my roommate ran up on Tuesday, got the license, and then we drove up on Thursday after I got done teaching class and went in on Friday. We were in and out of the Baltimore county courthouse in half an hour, and this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Everyone was super super professional and nice, and it was all "spouse 1" and "spouse 2" on the paperwork and such - so no hiccups, no one blinked, and as far as I could tell, no one was anything but genuinely happy for us. Info here:

Oh, the kicker is that we didn't have to show ID the whole time. As long as we were over 18, no one checked an ID for the license or the ceremony, for what it's worth.

So, you can either run over to Pennsylvania, or plan a trip somewhere if you have the cash and time (we were doing this very last minute, it's a long story). You even could, depending on what your plans already are, plan your honeymoon somewhere you can do the legalities (we were going to do this, and got impatient :) ).

Before you do all that, though, call your local clerk's office and describe the situation and ask if you all can get a license at home. I can almost guarantee that this won't be the first time they've gotten questions about a marriage license involving a trans* person, and even if it is the first time they've gotten the question, that's what they're there for.

Here's information for one county in Ohio:

The part that worries me for y'all is "Each applicant must provide valid photo identification and know their social security number. All social security numbers are held in confidence and do not become a part of the Court's public records." It sounds like your guy needs to check to see what his SS information says anyhow, so I'd say, check on his SS information, then call your clerk's office and ask what's possible (I'm assuming his driver's license/state ID is correct?), and then you can plan from there.

Oh, and congratulations! :) :) :)
posted by joycehealy at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am a justice of the peace who marries people (albeit in a state that has marriage equality, if you want to come to VT for 24 hours I'll marry you this weekend) and I don't check people's ID for any reason. If you have a physician who you are comfortable with, you can get the gender on your social security information changed if that would make things easier for the two of you. It might take a while, but having this "in process" might allay your partner's fears. If it were me I think I'd go to a marriage equality state and get married-for-sure and then hammer out the specifics over time.
posted by jessamyn at 10:15 AM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Hello! I was literally in your shoes, down to location and everything else, a couple years ago.

You're almost definitely not going to be able to get married in Ohio. His birth cert and SS card will have the wrong gender--if he'd changed his gender with Social Security, he'd know--it's not an automatic process, and requires a fair bit of documentation. As far as the state of Ohio is concerned, your partner is female, and my experience (after quite a lot of phone calls, frankly) was that there's no way, no how they're going to let you get hitched.

We ended up going up to Toronto and getting married there. You could go to any number of places now, which is nice--I agree with RJ Reynolds that New York would be good, but you don't have to go as far as NYC--Niagara's an easy three-hour drive from Cleveland, and could be a nice weekend trip. (New York state only has a 24 hour waiting period, so it's easier than going to many other places, unless you happen to live near a border.) You may find that it works better for your partner if you view this as eloping instead of "leaving this godforsaken state so that my gender is respected".

Just FYI, once you've gotten married, you're right that the federal government will recognize your marriage, no problem. Additionally, various places in Ohio will recognize your marriage on an entirely case-by-case basis. I had one health insurance company (through work) that was totally willing to recognize it, and one that wouldn't touch my partner with a ten-foot pole. The DMV had no problem accepting my marriage stuff as name change documentation, nor did my bank; my insurance company at the time did. It's totally random, and often frustrating, but you should definitely follow up, everywhere, because surprising places will suddenly be like congratulations on your marriage! :D!, which is sort of a nice little psychological boost.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want to talk, or if you think there's something that I can help you with.
posted by MeghanC at 10:16 AM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

How about just getting physically married at a city hall somewhere (Iowa, maybe?) and postponing the Ohio wedding /party until you can legally be married there?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:35 AM on July 25, 2014

Seconding MeghanC- get married in Ontario. No waiting period, and no waiting period in BC, Alberta, Sask, New Brunswick or PEI either. Forget Quebec- you have to wait 20 days after a public announcement. Newfoundland is 4 days, Manitoba and Yukon 1 day. The rest, including Ontario which is obviously most relevant for you, is zero. Walk in and get your asses married.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:45 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Where are you in Ohio? Western Maryland isn't all that far from eastern Ohio; Garrett County (MD's westernmost county) is just south of Pittsburgh, and (if Howard County is any indication) you can get a license there and two days later get married, both in the county court house.

You can have a party back in Ohio once you've done the legal stuff in a nearby marriage equality state. Or, if you want the celebration on the same day, the Deep Creek Lake area of Garrett County is absolutely gorgeous.
posted by tckma at 12:55 PM on July 25, 2014

Has you partner changed the gender marker on his passport and/or driver's license? This page suggests it's possible to change the gender marker on a drivers license in Ohio. If his passport, drivers license, and social security card say he's male, he might be OK. I would check with someplace like Lambda Legal or the Transgender Law Center, though, since this is such a big deal.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:44 PM on July 25, 2014

I just looked up how to get a marriage license in Franklin County, OH. It says you need picture ID and to know your SS#, but it doesn't say you need to show your social security card. If his passport or driver's license has the correct gender, that may be sufficient. My partner and I got married in Michigan 13 years ago; I'm a cisgendered female and he's an FTM, and we just did it with his ID.

I've watched with interest as a few cases involving trans individuals have gone through the courts in various places. It looks to me like the only thing that undoes such a marriage is a challenge. There have been cases in various places where the children of a trans person challenged the validity of a marriage when an inheritance was involved, for instance. We felt that it was very unlikely anyone would ever question the validity of our marriage, and simply went ahead with it.

needs more cowbell is right, though, that checking with one of the organizations mentioned could help set your partner's mind at ease.
posted by not that girl at 2:12 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The thing that'll give you the most peace of mind is to find someone who has experience in Ohio. (I know at least two people with trans connections in Ohio, me-mail me if you can't find anyone and I'll see if they know anyone born in Ohio who's gotten married.) My feeling is that the safest option is to go to a state with marriage equality--you're not going to get a 'gay' marriage license or a 'straight' marriage license, you're just going to get a marriage license and Ohio would likely just regard it as an opposite-sex marriage (since it's never going to occur to them one of you's trans, though your partner should make sure he's changed everything he can). You'd still have the same exposure to your will or whatever being challenged in Ohio, at least for the time being, but no one would be able to argue you shouldn't have been issued the marriage license in the first place.

His birth cert and SS card will have the wrong gender--if he'd changed his gender with Social Security, he'd know--it's not an automatic process, and requires a fair bit of documentation.

Like jessamyn said, changing the gender marker with Social Security is no longer so arduous. He should know if he's changed it, but the possibility always exists that someone just went and changed it when he changed his name and didn't tell him.
posted by hoyland at 5:35 PM on July 25, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice and congratulations, everyone! We decided to honeymoon for a few days in New York and get legally married then. We just booked the hotel! We really appreciate the advice, my partner and I feel good about this decision and are so excited.
posted by dinofuzz at 6:12 AM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

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