Federal Courts in Louisiana, Wisconsin, Indiana Send Mixed Messages on Marriage

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Two federal courts have ruled on state same-sex marriage bans in the last two days, though their conflicting decisions further underline the need for a Supreme Court decision to help settle the issue once and for all.

Yesterday, a U.S. District Court judge in Louisiana ruled that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is constitutional because of some convoluted (and irrelevant) reasoning about marriage’s preservation of “biological” families. Judge Martin Feldman found that, while one-man-one-woman marriage is a “legitimate concern” of the state, and therefore can be “rightly regulated” to preserve state interests, same-sex marriages do not constitute that same fundamental right as protected by the Constitution. Those state interests, of course, involve the classic “Think of the children!” line of reasoning:

“This Court is persuaded that Louisiana has a legitimate interest… whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others… in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents…”

For good measure, he also threw in the “slippery slope” argument:

“Perhaps that is the next frontier, the next phase of some ‘evolving understanding of equality,’ where what is marriage will be explored. … For example, must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs.”

Give the full decision a read to get nice and frustrated. If appealed, the next step for this case is the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has taken its time with the Texas marriage case currently working through the system.

Today’s ruling in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found, like all other courts to consider the issue this year, that state marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana are in fact unconstitutional, and that many of the arguments used to argue against marriage (including those in the Louisiana case) are preposterous. Judge Richard Posner — who asked state lawyers some tough and outright combative questions during the hearing — dismissed the biological arguments against marriage equality unilaterally:

“The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction — that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended — is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously.”

A stay is possible, and all three cases will likely be caught up in appeals for a while, meaning marriages won’t begin in Wisconsin and Indiana any time soon. But every ruling in favor of marriage pushes the movement forward and gives the Supreme Court more incentive to rule on the issue. Two other circuit courts are currently handling cases involving marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii, and several states are gearing up to argue their cases in the Supreme Court.

Kaitlyn lives in New York, which is the simplest answer you're going to get if you ask her where she's from. She went to journalism school and is arguably making the most of her degree as a writer and copy editor. She utilizes her monthly cable bill by watching more competitive cooking shows than should be allowed.

Kaitlyn has written 69 articles for us.

10 Comments

    • Maybe? A lot of conservatives have a double standard for straight divorce and gay marriage, but a lot also are really anti-divorce, which terrifies me. The right to divorce (ideally no-contest divorce that doesn’t require either party to prove anything) is so important, particularly for women. But I read a lot of conservatives who want to outlaw divorce except in extreme cases, and in some states they’ve made it so it can take years and involve a ton of hurdles.

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