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Louisiana decision contradicts more than 20 consecutive federal court rulings

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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Additional reporting here

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled to uphold Louisiana’s ban on marriage equality. 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.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman

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. We firmly believe that justice will ultimately be done.”

Judge Feldman’s ruling is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The case, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, was brought by same-sex couples in Louisiana who wish to marry in the state or have their legal marriages performed elsewhere recognized by the state. Forum for Equality Louisiana, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, is also a plaintiff in this case.

In his ruling, Judge Feldman suggests, “it is not for this Court to resolve the wisdom of same-sex marriage,” arguing that “fundamental social change, in this instance, is better cultivated through democratic consensus.”

He also claims that there are no fundamental rights at stake, even though the Supreme Court of the United States has determined that marriage is a fundamental right in more than a dozen cases. Judge Feldman goes on to dismiss copious academic research demonstrating that the children of same-sex couples fair just as well as the children of opposite-sex couples.

He writes, “Louisiana’s laws and Constitution are directly related to achieving marriage’s historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents.”

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There are over 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 of the 31 states where such a ban exists, plus Puerto Rico. Cases from eleven other states are currently pending before five federal appeals courts.

The Tenth and Fourth Circuits both recently upheld rulings striking down state bans on marriage equality – Kitchen v. Herbert of Utah and Bishop v. Smith of Oklahoma in the Tenth Circuit, and Bostic v. Shaefer of Virginia in the Fourth Circuit.

In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in court. Since the Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 21 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional until today’s decision out of Louisiana.

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