A federal judge in Louisiana on Wednesday became the first in the country to uphold a state same-sex marriage ban, ruling Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman ruled that the state had a “legitimate interest” in banning same-sex marriage and that the same-sex couples who have married in the state did not have a “fundamental” right to marry. The decision is the first from a federal court to side with marriage equality foes since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down a federal law that defined marriage as only unions between one man and one woman.
The suit was brought by six same-sex couples who were legally married in other states, one same-sex couple who wants to marry in Louisiana, and the Forum for Equality Louisiana, a nonprofit advocacy organization, arguing that the ban is unconstitutional.
Attorneys for the State of Louisiana defended the ban, arguing it furthered the state’s legitimate interest in “linking children with intact families formed by their biological parents, and by ensuring that fundamental social change occurs through democratic process.”
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Judge Feldman, an appointee of President Reagan, agreed.
“The national same-sex marriage struggle animates a clash between convictions regarding the value of state decisions reached by way of the democratic process,” Judge Feldman wrote, “as contrasted with personal, genuine, and sincere lifestyle choices recognition.”
As to whether there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, Feldman ruled that “[p]ublic attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage.”
Marriage equality advocates have enjoyed a near-uninterrupted streak of wins in both state and federal courts. While no other federal court has ruled against marriage equality until now, in August a Tennessee family court judge upheld that state’s marriage equality ban, ruling that Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage prevented a same-sex couple legally married in Iowa from divorcing in Tennessee.
Marriage equality advocates could appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The conservative Fifth Circuit is currently considering a decision striking a Texas ban on same-sex marriage.
The question of whether or not statewide marriage equality bans are constitutional will likely be answered by the Roberts Court this term.
So far the Supreme Court has three petitions asking it to review federal court decisions that deemed marriage equality bans unconstitutional in Utah, Virginia, and Oklahoma. Should the Court agree to hear any or all of those cases, it would likely issue a ruling next summer.