John M. Becker

Big Day for Marriage Equality Today

Filed By John M. Becker | January 09, 2015 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, gay marriage, Kentucky, Louisiana, marriage equality, Michigan, Ohio, same-sex marriage, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Tennessee

fifth-circuit-building.jpgToday is a big day in the push for nationwide marriage equality.

First, as you're reading this, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana is hearing oral arguments in the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas marriage cases (in that order). Arguments begin at 9:00 AM Central Time, 10:00 AM Eastern.

The Louisiana case, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, is the one we lost at the district court level in September. In his decision, ethically questionable Judge Martin Leach-Cross Feldman referred to marriage equality as "lifestyle choices recognition" and outrageously likened it to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy (and threw in some anti-transgender demagoguery to boot!). Today, each side will get 30 minutes to argue their case, and Lambda Legal attorney Camilla B. Taylor will argue for the freedom to marry.

The Mississippi case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, was decided in our favor in November when U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves struck down that state's marriage discrimination amendment. Like the Louisiana case, each side has 30 minutes to argue. Carrying the pro-equality banner for Mississippi is attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor and argued and won the landmark United States v. Windsor case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

We also won the Texas case, De Leon v. Perry, in February of 2014 when Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that marriage discrimination in the Lone Star State violates the U.S. Constitution. Arguing today for 30 minutes in favor of the freedom to marry are attorneys from the private law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Additionally, today the United States Supreme Court will consider whether or not to review any of the five marriage equality cases that are currently on its doorstep.

supreme-court-side-view.jpgThe cases are from Michigan (DeBoer v. Snyder), Ohio (Obergefell v. Wymyslo), Kentucky (Bourke v. Beshear), and Tennessee (Tanco v. Haslam) -- the four states of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where we lost in November -- and from Robicheaux v. Caldwell in Louisiana (the same case being heard by the Fifth Circuit today), which the Lambda Legal team has taken the unusual step of asking the Court to hear before the Fifth Circuit has ruled on it.

There is strong speculation that the Court will ultimately choose to review one or more of the marriage cases and decide the constitutional issue of marriage equality for the entire nation, once and for all. That speculation is reinforced by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's remarks in September that a circuit split -- a conflict between federal appeals court circuits on the constitutionality of state-level marriage bans -- will compel the court to intervene and resolve the question. The Sixth Circuit provided that split in November when it became the first appeals court circuit to rule in favor of laws blocking same-sex couples from marriage.

The Court can decide whether to review the cases, decline review (and leave the appeals court decisions in place), or delay consideration (in which case the petitions may be relisted for consideration at future conferences on January 16 and 23). It could announce its decision this afternoon or Monday.

Stay tuned, folks!

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