Metro Weekly

Supreme Court to consider Louisiana same-sex marriage case next month

U.S. Supreme Court Justices
U.S. Supreme Court Justices

The U.S. Supreme Court will discuss whether to hear a case challenging Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage early next month.

At the Supreme Court justices’ private conference on Jan. 9, the nine justices will consider the petition for writ of certiorari filed in the Louisiana case, according to the court’s updated docket. 

In September, a federal judge upheld the Louisiana marriage ban as constitutional in Robicheaux v. George. On Nov. 20, plaintiffs in the case asked the Supreme Court to hear the case before a federal appeals court has rendered judgement. The state of Louisiana has agreed with the plaintiffs that the Supreme Court should address whether the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires states to license or recognize same-sex marriages. Arguments before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled for early January.

The Louisiana case is one of five cases challenging same-sex marriage bans that the Supreme Court has been asked to hear, although there is no word yet when those other cases will be distributed to the justices. 

In a 2-1 decision handed down Nov. 6, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld same-sex marriages bans in four states — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — breaking with other federal appeals courts that have considered the issue. The Supreme Court has been asked to consider all four state marriage bans by plaintiffs in the four cases. With the exception of Tennessee,  all of the states defending those respective bans have agreed the court should hear the cases.

The Supreme Court has no obligation to take any of the cases, nor are they restricted to a specific timeframe for announcing their decisions. Four of the nine Supreme Court justices must vote to hear a case in order for a writ of certiorari to be granted. The breakdown of those votes are not released by the court, nor the justices’ reasons for granting or denying a petition to hear a case.

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In October, the Supreme Court declined to hear cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in five states — Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin — thus allowing lower court decisions legalizing marriage equality in those states to stand. Because the Supreme Court left intact rulings by the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals striking down same-sex marriage bans in those five states, those appeals courts’ decisions applied to six other states in those three circuits: West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. 

However, the split among the circuits created by the 6th Circuit decision is expected to increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will take up a same-sex marriage case. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in September that if the 6th Circuit allowed same-sex marriage bans to stand “there will be some urgency” for the Supreme Court to step in. 

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