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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 5 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 36
We lose one: Judge upholds Louisiana marriage ban
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We lose one: Judge upholds Louisiana marriage ban

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A federal district judge upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriages in a September 3 ruling, breaking the string of more than 20 federal court decisions striking similar laws in other states.

In his decision, Judge Martin Feldman ruled that the Louisiana law was valid because it met rational basis review - in other words, it was not motivated solely by bias against Gay and Lesbian couples.

In contrast, other federal judges have held that a higher standard of scrutiny should apply, and the state should have to demonstrate some compelling interest in preventing Gay and Lesbian couples from marrying. Some judges have found that laws banning same-sex marriages do not even pass rational basis review, saying they are discriminatory on their face.

The case, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, involves several same-sex couples who want to marry in Louisiana or have legal marriages performed in other jurisdictions recognized by the state. Forum for Equality Louisiana, a statewide LGBT rights organization, is also a plaintiff in the case.

Forum for Equality pledged to appeal the decision.

'The ruling today upheld the unconstitutional ban on recognizing loving and committed same-sex couples,' the group said in a statement.

'Forum for Equality and the courageous couples who have lead this battle will not stop! We will take this fight all the way to the Supreme Court! We will not let one decision turn back the tide of victories because we stand on the right side of history.'

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the next stop for the case, is also hearing an appeal of a February ruling striking down Texas's marriage ban.

Calling Feldman's ruling a 'roadblock' on the path to 'nationwide marriage equality,' HRC predicted that the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say on the issue.

'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,' HRC said in a statement. 'We firmly believe that justice will ultimately be done.'

In a ruling which quoted both from Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in USA v. Windsor and from Chief Justice John Roberts' dissent, as well as Fourth Circuit Judge Paul Niedemeyer's dissent in Bostic v. Schaefer, Feldman asserted that Gay and Lesbian couples do not have a constitutionally-protected right to marry.

'Windsor repeatedly and emphatically reaffirmed the longstanding principle that the authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations belongs to the states,' Feldman wrote, 'subject to indistinct future constitutional guarantees that in Windsor were, by its expressed limits, left open and rather inexact.'

Consequently, the plaintiff same-sex couples were asking him to create a 'new right,' the judge said, and 'it is not for this Court to resolve the wisdom of same-sex marriage...'

'[F]undamental social change, in this instance, is better cultivated through democratic consensus,' he added, noting that Louisiana citizens had already voted to ban same-sex marriage.

According to Feldman, the rational basis on which the constitutionality of the law hinges is 'directly related to achieving marriage's historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents,' even though Louisiana law already allows Gays and Lesbians to adopt children, and allows their partners to adopt as 'second parents.'

Feldman, now 80, was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan in 1983. Until this decision, his most infamous ruling was in Hornbeck Offshore Services v. Salazar (2010), in which he lifted an injunction against offshore oil drilling. It was later discovered that the judge owned stock in Transocean, the company that owned the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and several other oil companies.

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We lose one: Judge upholds Louisiana marriage ban
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