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Gay rights group files lawsuit challenging Louisiana gay marriage ban

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated: 4:00 p.m. CST

NEW ORLEANS — Four married gay couples have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Louisiana Constitution’s prohibition against recognizing same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

LouisianaAt a news conference Wednesday with officials of Forum for Equality Louisiana, two of the couples said their daughters were their main reason for joining the suit. Louisiana won’t recognize both members of a same-sex union as parents of a child born to them or adopted.

The parents say if their child has an emergency, their partners sometimes need to be able to approve their care.

The lawsuit also says the marriage recognition ban forces married same-sex couples who file joint federal tax returns to lie on their state returns, saying they’re single.

Forum attorney Dalton Courson says that violates their free speech, and the group’s lawsuit attacks the marriage recognition ban on several fronts.

For instance, it says state revenue department policy, based on the ban, essentially requires married same-sex couples who file joint federal tax returns to falsely claim they are single on state returns – a violation, the Forum says, of free speech.

The lawsuit also challenges the state’s refusal to recognize both members of a same-sex union as parents of a child born to them or adopted.

A 2004 amendment to the Louisiana Constitution says marriage in the state “shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman,” and goes on to prohibit state officials or courts from recognizing a marriage “contracted in any other jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman.” Currently, 17 states allow same-sex marriage.

In their suit, the New Orleans-based Forum and the four couples say the ban violates their equal protection and free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Their suit follows months of legal research following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. The June 26 decision struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

That ruling led to a series of federal policy announcements regarding same-sex unions. One that comes into play in the Louisiana case is the Internal Revenue Service policy allowing legally married gay couples to file joint federal tax returns, even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.

Louisiana law directs taxpayers to use the same status on state tax returns that they use on federal returns. Because of the state constitution’s ban, the revenue department requires that a gay couple filing as married on a federal tax return must file a Louisiana return as single or head of household.

That policy essentially forces married couples who file joint federal returns to face different tax liabilities than other married couples in the state, the Forum maintains. And it requires them to falsely deny their marital status, the lawsuit says.

The legal challenge also addresses other instances in which legally married gay couples are treated differently from married opposite-sex couples, noting that same-sex spouses are denied inheritance rights when one dies; and that only one parent in a gay marriage is recognized on a child’s birth certificate, posing a host of potential problems for the non-recognized parent if, for instance, the child needs parental permission for medical treatment.

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14 more reader comments:

  1. The best of luck. I’m born & raised there & live in Texas & gay. I pray u win for us all

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:54pm
  2. That would be the bomb if we could marry !! My partner and I have been waiting for 28 years !!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:55pm
  3. Go to a state that allows it. We did and now we are federally protected.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:01pm
  4. Here in the UK it will be legal in March - at last - I am 63 and could never marry my last 2 partners - mind you the divorces could have been a bit costly.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:31pm
  5. I never knew homophobia still existed til I was stationed in louisiana. The amount of hate a “christian state” can have is blinding.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:56pm
  6. Excellent!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:58pm
  7. About damn time my home state pulls it’s head out its ass…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:58pm
  8. me & my partner have been waiting for Jindal to stop being an ass and legalize it a while. Its my dream come True to my my partner and make it come true

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:01pm
  9. We went to Iowa!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:05pm
  10. I’ve never known a country that is so obsessed with taking legal action against their own country and states all the time,Its as if its some kind of hobby with some people over there.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:45pm
  11. It’s pretty ironic that our governor is such a bigot. This is the same guy who lost his first campaign for governor because of his race. In fact, the biggest reason he eventually did find himself in office was due to Kathleen Blanco’s incompetence during the whole Hurricane Katrina debacle. In my book that makes him an even bigger piece of shit than the rest of the bigots out there.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:06pm
  12. Have they forgotten the meaning of Equalite?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:19pm
  13. being from louisiana, i know how backwards they still are – good luck to my fellow queers still stuck in the south! <3

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:40pm
  14. My partner is from Louisiana and we want to marry here so we can invite her family .. Our wedding is gonna be a bit different .. Everyone MUST show up in some kind of drag .. We live this “different lifestyle everyday ” so they have to do it for one . ( or they will miss the biggest party ever ) can’t wait

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:56pm