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:
First, 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...