6th Circuit Court breaks from unanimous appellate rulings, upholds discrimination
November 06, 2014
Today, November 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued the first ruling in favor of upholding laws that discriminate against same-sex couples from a federal appellate court in the past several years. In doing so, the Court upheld marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee and led to the continued discrimination of thousands of same-sex couples in these four states.
The plaintiffs and legal team in the case may now seek certiorari from the United States Supreme Court, or they could seek an en banc review before the full 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. On Monday, October 6, just one month ago, the Supreme Court indicated that it saw nothing wrong with the freedom to marry for same-sex couples by effectively allowing anti-marriage laws to be struck down in eleven states.
Freedom to Marry Founder and President Evan Wolfson said today:
Today’s ruling is completely out of step with the Supreme Court's clear signal last month, out of step with the constitutional command as recognized by nearly every state and federal court in the past year, and out of step with the majority of the American people. This anomalous ruling won't stand the test of time or appeal. But with discrimination still burdening too many families, and now with this split in the circuits, Freedom to Marry calls on the Supreme Court to swiftly take these cases, affirm the freedom to marry, and bring national resolution once and for all. American couples and their families should no longer be forced to fight court by court, state by state, day by day for the freedom and dignity that our Constitution promises.
6th Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey dissented from the ruling. She wrote:
These plaintiffs are not political zealots trying to push reform on their fellow citizens; they are committed same-sex couples, many of them heading up de facto families, who want to achieve equal status -- de jure status, if you will -- with their married neighbors, friends, and coworkers, to be accepted as contributing members of their social and religious communities, and to be welcomed as fully legitimate parents at their children's schools. They seek to do this by virtue of exercising a civil right that most of us take for granted - the right to marry.
For although my colleagues in the majority pay lip service to marriage as an institution conceived for the purpose of providing a stable family unit "within which children may flourish," they ignore the destabilizing effect of its absence in the homes of tens of thousands of same-sex parents throughout the four states of the Sixth Circuit.
Instead of recognizing the plaintiffs as persons, suffering actual harm as a result of being denied the right to marry where they reside or the right to have their valid marriages recognized there, my colleagues view the plaintiffs as social activists who have somehow stumbled into federal court.
The 6th Circuit is the first federal appellate court this year to rule against the freedom to marry. Previous victories emerged this summer and fall in the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 10th Circuit. Those rulings added to nearly 40 additional wins in state and federal court.
In just the past month, same-sex couples have effectively won the freedom to marry in 16 different states: On Monday, October 6, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in five marriage cases, clearing the way for the freedom to marry not only in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin - but also paving the path toward marriage in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming, the other states in the 10th and 4th Circuits. Just one day later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also affirmed the freedom to marry in a case from Idaho and a case from Nevada, setting the stage for marriage in those two states, as well as Alaska, Arizona and Montana. So far, just four of these states - Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, and South Carolina - have not yet implemented the appellate orders.
With these victories, just 15 states will soon remain without the freedom to marry - and today's out-of-step ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ensures that in four of these states, same-sex couples will for now continue to be denied the freedom to marry and real American families will continue to be hurt. As the prospective appeal in this ruling works its way to the 6th Circuit and, likely, the U.S. Supreme Court, it is more important than ever for the nation's highest court to recognize that it is time to take up a case and rule for the freedom to marry nationwide. It is simply untenable for 15 states to deny same-sex couples the same fundamental freedoms that are available or soon will be available in 35 other states.
It is simply time for the freedom to marry nationwide.
Meet the real families - plaintiff couples and their children - impacted by today's ruling. And Read the full ruling here.