Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban want the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case on a direct appeal. A Nov. 20 petition asks the court to review U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman's Sept. 3 ruling upholding the law. The petition was filed by Forum for Equality and Lambda Legal, the latter of which also represents plaintiffs in a same-sex marriage lawsuit decided by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit last month reversed lower court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. That 2-1 decision ran contrary to rulings recognizing same-sex marriages in more than 30 states. In the opinion of many court watchers, the ruling increases the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) but declined to rule that state laws banning same-sex marriages are also unconstitutional. The high court's ruling in U.S. v. Windsor led to a slew of lower federal court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage — until Feldman's ruling in September. Similarly, the 6th Circuit ruling last month was the first at the appellate level to uphold same-sex marriage bans.
The Louisiana case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell is scheduled to be argued before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Jan. 9. The plaintiffs' direct appeal to the Supreme Court is intended to bypass the appellate court and put the case immediately in front of the Supreme Court.
"The ruling from the lower court in this case is a time-warped reading of the Constitution and neglects developments in the law," Lambda Legal senior counsel Kenneth D. Upton Jr. said in a statement. "We are asking for the Supreme Court's review now, while it is considering the 6th Circuit decision, because together these cases present the full gamut of aberrant arguments supporting these discriminatory bans, and, in Louisiana specifically, present in one state a case covering both the right of same-sex couples to marry, and for legally married same-sex couples to have those marriages recognized."
On Sept. 22, state 15th Judicial District Court Judge Edward Rubin ruled that Louisiana's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. It was a symbolic victory for same-sex marriage advocates, and Rubin's ruling also found unconstitutional the state's Department of Revenue policy prohibiting same-sex couples from filing joint tax returns. The rulings followed an adoption case involving a same-sex couple.
Like Louisiana, both Arkansas and Mississippi have constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. Last week, both saw their same-sex marriage bans overturned by federal judges, though marriages did not commence, as officials in both states already had indicated they would appeal if the judges found in favor of the plaintiffs in each case.