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State constitution challenged

Couples file same-sex marriage lawsuit



  Four same-sex married couples, led by the LGBT-rights group Forum for Equality Louisiana, filed a federal lawsuit last week saying that the state's constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriage violates their right of equal protection as set forth in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The defendants in the lawsuit are Louisiana Department of Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield and Louisiana State Registrar Devin George.

  The couples, all of whom are Louisiana residents who were married in other states or the District of Columbia, are seeking three things: a declaration that the state's anti-same-sex marriage laws are unconstitutional; an injunction against enforcement of those laws; and an award of attorneys' fees.

  In addition, the couples say that Louisiana's insistence on same-sex couples filing separate state tax returns is "an unconstitutional coercion of speech" — given that same-sex couples can now file joint federal tax returns, while Louisiana law mandates that filing status match on federal and state returns.

  On the day the Louisiana suit was filed, a federal judge ruled in favor of plaintiffs in a similar suit in Kentucky. In that case, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the state had to recognize same-sex marriage but did not rule that the state was required to perform them.

  Conservative and religious groups criticized both lawsuits. Gene Mills, head of the Louisiana Family Forum, issued a statement saying the Louisiana suit was an "attempt to usurp the will of the people in Louisiana" (the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was adopted by popular vote in 2004). In Kentucky, Paul Chitwood, head of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told the Associated Press that the judge's ruling "moves us down the slippery slope toward launching Kentucky into moral chaos."

  As of last week, 17 states and the District of Columbia, as well as some Native American jurisdictions, recognize same-sex marriage. Louisiana also bars same-sex couples from entering into civil unions.

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