Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage; what it means in Louisiana

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A rally for marriage equality in 2014 in Jackson Square.
  • A rally for marriage equality in 2014 in Jackson Square.

In a historic week of rulings at the U.S. Supreme Court, the court ruled today that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. In a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage — and its "constellation of benefits" — to same-sex couples. Read the full ruling here. In the the court's ruling, Kennedy wrote:
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than oncethey were. As some of  the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It  would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
The ruling marks a resolution to years of litigation, debate and court and state decisions over whether the 14th Amendment, providing equal protection, extends to same-sex couples and the recognition of their marriages. It also means the remaining states with same-sex marriage bans must drop them.

Louisiana is among those states. Louisiana banned same-sex marriage in 2004, adding into the state constitution a definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court's decision supersedes Louisiana's, however, and the state must allow same-sex couples to marry.

In a statement from the campaign trail in Iowa, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the ruling "tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution."

"Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that," he said. "This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty. ... The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies. That would be a clear violation of America’s long held commitment to religious liberty as protected in the First Amendment."

The Louisiana Clerks of Court Association has advised the state to wait 25 days to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said in a statement that the office does not believe it must issue licenses immediately following the decision and that "there is not yet a legal requirement" to issue licenses of perform marriages. Caldwell is waiting for the Supreme Court to "issue a mandate or order making today’s decision final and effective and will issue a statement when that occurs."

"This Supreme Court decision overturns the will of the people of Louisiana, and it takes away a right that should have been left to the states," he said. "I am extremely disappointed by this decision. It fails to respect traditional marriage as defined by Louisiana voters, and is yet another example of the federal government intrusion into what should be a state issue."

Meanwhile, couples already are awaiting licenses at Benson Tower and for judges to perform marriages at  Orleans Parish Civil District Court. Tonight in Jackson Square, marriage equality proponents will host a "Decision Day" rally.
 
Louisiana plaintiffs in a separate suit challenged Louisiana's law forbidding same-sex marriages, and that case is still awaiting a decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, along with similar cases from Texas and Mississippi, following a hearing in January. It was expected that appeals court judges would await the Supreme Court's decision before making a ruling, but legal teams from those cases say an appeals court ruling now would only be a formality.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said in a statement that the ruling "is a transformative triumph decades in the making, a momentous victory for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love."

"For anyone who ever doubted that we could bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, today the United States again took a giant step toward the more perfect union we the people aspire to," he said.

Marjorie Esman, director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said the ruling "is a great victory for equality and freedom."

“The Supreme Court has recognized that fundamental rights must and do apply to everyone, and that the fundamental right to marry cannot be denied to two consenting adults," she said in a statement. "The country has taken a great step forward today, and it’s a day to rejoice for those couples who seek nothing more than to have their relationships given the dignity that they deserve.”

In a statement this afternoon, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, "As the mayor of a city that has long embraced the principles of inclusion, tolerance and diversity, I am more than pleased to see the Supreme Court and the United States embrace these same principles. Today, our great country takes another step toward becoming a more perfect union, but more work is needed to end discrimination in all forms and make our country a fairer and more just place to live for every American."


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