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Rulings differ on same-sex marriage in Louisiana

A state judge in Louisiana, ordering state officials to treat as legal the California wedding of a same-sex couple, has struck down a state ban on such marriages — the same ban that was upheld in federal court earlier this month.  The federal case is now awaiting an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where state officials want it reviewed by the same panel that will rule on a Texas ban that has been nullified.

The situation in Louisiana has now become somewhat muddled, although the conflicting rulings are by different courts — one state, one federal.  In a ruling on Monday that has just been made public, state District Court Judge Edward D. Rubin found unconstitutional a 2004 state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, as well as state laws also imposing a ban and refusing to recognize such marriages performed elsewhere.

Judge Rubin ordered state officials to recognize the marriage of a lesbian couple, to officially approve their adoption as a family of a boy born in 2004, and to allow the couple to file a joint state tax return.

Chastity Shanelle Brewer and Angela Marie Costanza, who live in Lafayette Parish, were married in California six years ago.  They have a ten-year-old son, born biologically to Brewer.  They sought a right to allow Costanza to become a step-parent to the boy, in a family adoption.  That was denied because they were a same-sex couple who could not be married under Louisiana law.

Judge Rubin, like many other judges who have struck down bans on same-sex marriage in the past fifteen months, ruled that the couple was not seeking a new right to marry someone of the same sex, but only a right to be married just as opposite-sex couples may be.  The judge found that the prohibition on their marriage and the denial of a right to adopt their son violated the couple’s rights under the U.S. Constitution to equal protection of the laws and to due process.

The judge wrote: “Lest we forget, there was a time in America’s history when gays and lesbians were not permitted to even associate in public….We are past that now, but when it comes to marriage between persons of the same sex, this nation is moving towards acceptance that years ago would have never been contemplated.”

HIs opinion likened a state ban on same-sex marriage to the kind of state ban on mixed-race marriages that the Supreme Court struck down in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia.

State officials are expected to appeal Judge Rubin’s decision within the state court system.  The conflicting ruling by U.S. District Judge Martin C. Feldman of New Orleans on September 3 has been appealed by same-sex couples to the Fifth Circuit.  That court has not yet set a hearing date, and state officials have formally asked that, when the Louisiana couples’ appeal is heard, it be put before the same panel now set to review the constitutionality of Texas’s ban.  State officials in Texas have appealed to try to salvage their state prohibition.



Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Rulings differ on same-sex marriage in Louisiana, SCOTUSblog (Sep. 23, 2014, 7:24 PM),