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Six Marriage Equality Cases at the Sixth Circuit Today: A Preview

6thcircuit

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a series of marriage equality cases today from the jurisdiction's four constituent states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. It is an unprecedented coming together of marriage equality litigation that has the potential to change the destiny of marriage in the federal courts for several reasons:

6thcircuitFirst, these cases cover the entire Sixth Circuit and any decision could affect all of them directly, even if a decision is stayed pending appeal to the Supreme Court. We have seen this happen in the Fourth Circuit, where the appellate court overturns a ban on marriage equality and other states in the circuit, North Carolina and West Virginia, either stop defending their own bans or take other pro-equality actions because they see the writing on the wall even though the decision is stayed pending appeal.

Second, the three-judge panel reflects the right-of-center tilt of the circuit, consisting of a Clinton appointee and two George W. Bush appointees, one of whom has made his fiercely conservative views public.

And, third, as the third federal appeals court to hear a post-Windsor marriage case -- after the Tenth (the Utah case) and the Fourth (the Virginia case), but before the Seventh (on August 26), the Ninth (on September 8), and at some point, the Fifth -- the Sixth Circuit is being watched to determine if a pattern is emerging among the circuits or if there will be a split among the panels.

AFTER THE JUMP, I summarize the cases and briefly profile the judges on the panel. I will also discuss a few things to watch for during the marthon oral argument, scheduled to being at 1 PM.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Six Marriage Equality Cases at the Sixth Circuit Today: A Preview" »


Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to Hear Six Marriage Equality Cases in One Day on August 6

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is lining up the cases for a pretty impressive combo score on August 6th and will be hearing six discrete marriage equality cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

6thcircuitFrom the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

On August 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will hear oral argument in six marriage equality cases--the most marriage cases that any federal circuit court has ever heard in a single day, and the fourth argument to be heard by a federal circuit court since the United States Supreme Court's decision last summer striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Federal Judges Martha Craig Daughtrey, Jeffrey S. Sutton, and Deborah L. Cook will hear the challenges to laws banning marriage equality in Kentucky (two cases), Michigan, Ohio (two cases), and Tennessee. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is representing plaintiffs in Tennessee, American Civil Liberties Union is representing plaintiffs in Ohio, and Lambda Legal is representing plaintiffs in Ohio.

Oral arguments will begin at 1pm ET at the Potter Stewart Courthouse in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Kentucky Gay Marriage Plaintiff Timothy Love Discusses Heyburn Ruling: VIDEO

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In a July 3rd ruling, Judge John G. Heyburn struck down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.  

The news came with the announcement last week that Highland Baptist Church in Kentucky plans to marry David Bannister and Steven Carr in May 2015.

Although Heyburn ruled that "long-held religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted," he stayed the ruling until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides same-sex marriage cases from Kentucky and three other states, including the June 25 striking down of Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in Utah which ruled broadly in favor of marriage equality.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has hired an out-of-state law firm to handle the appeal after Attorney General Jack Conway declined to appeal the ruling.  According to USA Today, Beshear's arguments are "not those of serious people."

Beshear's lawyers will make their arguments to reverse Heyburn's ruling on August 6.

Read Ari Ezra Waldman’s review of Heyburn’s ruling and watch lead plaintiff Timothy Love discuss the case, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Kentucky Gay Marriage Plaintiff Timothy Love Discusses Heyburn Ruling: VIDEO" »


Kentucky Baptist Church To Perform Same-Sex Marriage Next Year - VIDEO

Highland baptist church kentucky

In a break with most of the church’s denominations, Highland Baptist Church in Kentucky announced it will marry couple David Bannister and Steven Carr next May.

Highland, which will become the third Baptist church in the area to perform same-sex weddings, is considered to be at the more liberal end of the congregation’s spectrum. In 2012, Highland ordained openly gay Minister Maurice Blanchard.

The news comes following a wave of recent pro-equality judicial decisions, including the June 25 decision in Indiana that struck down that state's marriage ban, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in Utah which ruled broadly in favor of marriage equality, and a July 1 decision that found Kentucky has no constitutional right to ban same-sex couples from marrying.

Although U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled in the Kentucky decision that "long-held religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted," he stayed the ruling until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides same-sex marriage cases from Kentucky and three other states, according to The Courier-Journal.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has hired a law firm to handle the appeal after Attorney General Jack Conway declined to appeal the ruling. 

Speaking to The Courier Journal, Pastor Joe Phelps said that the decision to perform the marriage has upset some members of the congregation, who have nonetheless taken the decision to stay with the church.

Sam Marcosson, a law professor at the University of Louisville, said:

"What Highland is really doing is what churches do on important issues. They're taking a stand in order to influence their community and move their community in a certain direction."

Beshear's lawyers will make their arguments to reverse Heyburn's ruling on August 6.

Watch a report on Heyburn's decision to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in Kentucky, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Kentucky Baptist Church To Perform Same-Sex Marriage Next Year - VIDEO" »


Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky's Marriage Discrimination Law

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

Kentucky-flagIn the 23rd consecutive pro-equality ruling from a federal court since the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, Judge John G. Heyburn, a President George H.W. Bush appointee at the recommendation of now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, struck down Kentucky's ban on gay couples marrying. Those of us following the situation in Kentucky knew this was coming: Judge Heyburn had previously ruled that Kentucky had to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state. It was a small step to invalidate Kentucky's own ban.

The opinion in the case, aptly captioned Love v. Beshear, reviews much of the ground covered by the 22 rulings that preceded it. It also departs from the past by, in particular, both relying on Windsor and narrowing it. It explicitly declines to take the route preferred by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Kitchen v. Herbet, which was to find Utah's ban unconstitutional as a violation of a fundamental due process right, and instead relies on the Equal Protection Clause. Judge Heyburn concluded that Windsor was an equal protection ruling, not a due process one. The confusion stems from the lack of clarity in Justice Kennedy's opinion. The result is the same: the ban is unconstitutional.

AFTER THE JUMP, I review in detail Judge Heyburn's interpretation of Windsor and show how it is different than many of the cases that have come before it in the post-Windsor world.

Continue reading "Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky's Marriage Discrimination Law" »


Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

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Federal Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled today that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, stating that gays are a "disadvantaged class” deserving protections similar to those received by women in equal protections cases. The Courrier-Journal reports:

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73d84b8b2970d-300wi"In America, even sincere and long-hold religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted," [Heyburn wrote]…

Heyburn rejected the only justification offered by lawyers for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear — that traditional marriages contribute to a stable birth rate and the state's long-term economic stability. 

"These arguments are not those of serious people," he said.

Heyburn held that the ban on gay marriage within Kentucky violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law and that there is "no conceivable legitimate purpose for it."

He held that the state's 2004 constitutional amendment and a similar statute enacted in 1998 deny gay couples lower income and estate taxes; leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act, family insurance coverage; and the ability to adopt children as a couple. 

"Perhaps most importantly," he added, the Kentucky law denies same-sex couples the "intangible and and emotional benefits of civil marriage."

The case in question was brought before Heyburn by two couples, Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, who have been together for thirty-three years, and Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James, who have been together for ten, after Heyburn ruled in a previous decision that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. As in his previous ruling, Heyburn put a hold on his latest decision, preventing same-sex couples from being able to wed immediately. Heyburn wants the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide on the challenge to Kentucky’s marriage ben it is set to hear in August before his ruling would go into effect. 


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