Photo: U.S. Supreme Court. Credit: Gouldy99/flickr.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a case challenging Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage before a federal appeals court has rendered judgement.
In an order list released Monday, the justices rejected the petition for writ of certiorari in the Louisiana case, but took no additional action on the other same-sex marriage cases before the court.
In November, plaintiffs in the Louisiana case asked the Supreme Court to hear the case before a federal appeals court has rendered judgement. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman found constitutional a Louisiana law prohibiting same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, marking the first federal court decision to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013. The state of Louisiana 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.
With the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Louisiana case, focus returns to the federal appeals court. On Friday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments in cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. According to reports, the three-judge panel seems poised to strike down those bans as unconstitutional. That same day, the Supreme Court justices met behind closed doors at their private conference to consider challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Louisiana as well as Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
The remaining same-sex marriage cases before the high court are expected to be considered again during the justices’ next conference, scheduled for Friday. 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 up any of the cases, nor are they restricted to a specific time frame 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. But it appears increasingly likely that the justices will feel compelled to act, particularly now that a split exists among the circuit courts.
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