U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman issued a Sept. 3 ruling upholding Louisiana’s ban on gay marriage, the first defeat in federal court for same-sex couples since the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the U.S. government cannot deny equal benefits to married gay couples.
Feldman’s ruling broke a string of 20 victories for supporters of same-sex marriage since the top court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.
In his opinion in the case, which consolidated multiple challenges to Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban, Feldman acknowledged that his ruling “runs counter to all but two other federal decisions,” but he asserted that states have the right to define the institution of marriage.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the ruling in U.S. v. Windsor means Louisiana’s failure to recognize legal same-sex marriages violates constitutional due process and equal-protection rights.
“Louisiana’s laws and Constitution are directly related to achieving marriage’s historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents,” Feldman wrote. “Louisiana’s regime pays respect to the democratic process; to vigorous debate. To predictable controversy, of course. The fact that marriage has many differing, even perhaps unproved dimensions, does not render Louisiana’s decision irrational.”
A spokesperson for three same-sex couples who are suing state officials over the ban, said the plaintiffs will seek to reverse Feldman’s ruling in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, and the case is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.
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