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Federal appeals court weighs four states’ same-sex marriage cases

One judge questions whether the courts are the proper venue to settle the debate over marriage equality
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Gay marriage supporters march from the Potter Stewart United States Courthouse, rear, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, to Fountain Square in Cincinnati. Al Behrman, AP

Gay marriage supporters march from the Potter Stewart United States Courthouse, rear, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, to Fountain Square in Cincinnati.

Along with the attorneys, Sutton sparred with Daughtrey, who repeatedly expressed confusion at the arguments forwarded by attorneys for the four states.

“Can you explain the state’s formulation of a basis for the law?” she asked Bill Harbison, the attorney for same-sex couples in Tennessee.

“No I can’t,” Harbison responded.

At one point, Daughtrey, an appointee of President Bill Clinton in 1993, told Sutton that the briefs filed by Harbison “contained great insight.”

“You should read it,” Daughtrey said.

“Great, We’ll try to do it before we issue an opinion,” Sutton responded as laughter rippled through the courtroom.

Sutton, appointed to the position by President George W. Bush in 2003, is known for being unpredictable, shocking Republicans in 2011 when he became the deciding vote in a 6th Circuit ruling that upheld President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Cook, also a Bush appointee in 2003, at times spoke up for the states defending the laws.

“People elect people … and use the democratic process to move things along locally and statewide,” Cook said as Ohio state solicitor Eric Murphy stumbled over his argument that voters should be allowed to make the laws in the states.

Phil Burress, leader of the Citizens for Community Values, based in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville, was outside the federal courthouse on Wednesday as members of his group and others opposed to gay marriage prayed.

He said proponents of gay marriage hope to use the courts to achieve their goal.

“This is their only chance to force same-sex marriage upon all 50 states,” Burress said.”

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Plaintiffs Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard and Dominique James of Bardstown, Kentucky, who sat together during the three-hours of arguments, left feeling good about their changes of being married in Kentucky in the near future.

“I feel like the procreation argument fell flat on its face,” Blanchard said. “I hope we get a ruling soon and can move on with our lives.”

Sutton, though, issued a note of caution before leaving the bench. No one, he said, should be in a hurry no matter the outcome of the largest such batch of cases heard to date by an appeals court.

“I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that this is the end of the road for anyone,” Sutton said.

Audio of each of the appeals is here: Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee.

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