U.S. Supreme Court to take up same-sex marriage cases

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Plaintiffs in a suit against Louisiana's sex marriage ban leaving the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Jan. 9. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Plaintiffs in a suit against Louisiana's sex marriage ban leaving the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Jan. 9.

The U.S. Supreme Court could finally settle whether same-sex couples have the right to marry, as protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court justices announced Jan. 16 they will review federal appellate court decisions that upheld bans in four states — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Those states are among 14, including Louisiana, where same-sex marriages are banned. Louisiana is the only state where a federal judge has ruled in favor of the state's ban. The Supreme Court hearings (which will likely begin in April with a ruling in June) will determine the constitutionality of same-same marriage bans, which could affect every state in the country.

The Supreme Court justices will focus on two points: "Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?" and "Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?"

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court declined to take up the Louisiana case, in which the plaintiffs asked the court to take the case out of the appellate court's hands. That case — along with cases in Mississippi and Texas — was heard in the U.S. 5th District Court of Appeals in New Orleans last week. (The decision from that three-judge panel is pending, though supporters and court-watchers are confident it will rule in its favor.) 

Forum For Equality Louisiana spokesman John Hill said the 5th District appeals court won't likely wait for the Supreme Court to make a decision before it rules in that case, though if it did, it would likely come with "some sort of public announcement." 

Last week, Florida became the first state in the Deep South to recognize same-sex marriages, bringing the total to 36 states where same-sex couples can marry. Freedom To Marry president Evan Wolfson wrote in a statement that the court's decision "begins what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide — and it's time."

"It looks like to me we will have marriage equality in June," Hill said. "It's hard to see tea leaves any other way."


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