CINCINNATI, Ohio — Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union on Friday filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling upholding same-sex marriage bans in Ohio and three other states.
The Sixth Circuit is the only federal circuit court to depart from recent decisions by the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuit courts, which have held that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional.
“We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling shines a spotlight on our divided country, where married same-sex couples are either respected or discriminated against, depending on where they live or even where they travel,” said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal.
“As we have learned from other historic cases like Loving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas, there comes a time when the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in, and provides the answer — on the question of marriage for same-sex couples we believe that time has come,” she said.
Henry v. Hodges was filed in February 2014, seeking recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed out-of-state. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the state appealed a federal court ruling that Ohio must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states for the purpose of listing surviving spouses on death certificates.
“We look forward to presenting our arguments on behalf of our plaintiff families and all Ohio same-sex couples in front of the highest court in the land,” said Al Gerhardstein, Attorney for Gerhardstein & Branch, who is representing plaintiffs in the Obergefell case, and a third challenge seeking the marriage equality for unmarried, same-sex couples in Ohio.
“It’s profoundly unfair for Ohio to tell these couples that their lawful marriages meant nothing and that their spouses are legal strangers. When you’re married, you’re married, no matter whether you travel or move to another state,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project.
“The country needs a uniform rule on respect for marriage, and only the Supreme Court can give it to us,” he said.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said lawyers for the state would review the appeal. “The Ohio Attorney General’s Office had previously stated that it did not anticipate opposing a Supreme Court review of the same-sex marriage issue,” Tierney said.
The speed with which the appeals are being filed – eight days after the ruling – indicates the court could take up and decide the issue this term, by the end of June.
The states have a month to respond. If they don’t seek extra time, the gay marriages cases should be before the justices for their first private conference in 2015, on January 9. If the court decides then to hear the cases, there should be time to schedule arguments in late April. The justices would have two months to write their opinions.
Update: Plaintiffs in the Tennessee case on Friday also appealed the 6th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court. Michigan and Kentucky plaintiffs are expected to file appeals as well.