NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriages on Wednesday, a rare loss for gay marriage supporters who had won more than 20 consecutive rulings overturning bans in other states.
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman also upheld the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. His ruling was the first to uphold a state ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.
“This national same-sex marriage struggle animates a clash between convictions regarding the value of state decisions reached by way of the democratic process as contrasted with personal, genuine, and sincere lifestyle choices recognition.” wrote Feldman.
In 2004, 78 percent of Louisiana voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage, which is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
La. decision contradicts more than 20 consecutive federal court rulings
Until today, no state marriage ban had survived a federal court ruling since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage decision in United States v. Windsor last summer.
In response to today’s rulings, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow issued the following statement:
“Today a federal district court put up a roadblock on a path constructed by twenty-one federal court rulings over the last year – a path that inevitably leads to nationwide marriage equality. Ultimately the nine justices of the Supreme Court of the United States will be asked to decide whether committed and loving gay and lesbian couples should be denied an institution that they, themselves, have deemed a constitutional right more than a dozen times…”
Feldman said gay marriage supporters failed to prove that ban violates equal protection or due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution. He also rejected an argument that the ban violated the First Amendment by effectively forcing legally married gay couples to state that they are single on Louisiana income tax returns.
Feldman sided with the state, which had argued that the nation’s high court, in the Defense of Marriage Act decision, recognized the rights of state voters and legislatures to define marriage.
“Although opinions about same-sex marriage will understandably vary among the states, and other states in free and open debate will and have chosen differently, that does not mandate that Louisiana has overstepped its sovereign authority,” he wrote.
The conservative Louisiana Family Forum praised the ruling
“This ruling confirms that the people of Louisiana – not the federal courts – have the constitutional right to decide how marriage is defined in this state,” Gene Mills, the group’s president, said in a news release.
However, gay marriage supporters vowed to appeal. They had argued that the ban violated constitutional due process and equal-protection rights.