5th Circuit Court

5th Circuit Court

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The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit covers three states: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The circuit court is the highest federal court within that circuit - although, of course, its decisions are subject to potential review by the Supreme Court - and so a ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for a case out of one of the states would be binding to each of the states within the circuit.

This winter, two cases - Texas' De Leon v. Perry and Louisiana's Robicheaux v. Caldwell - will be considered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. An oral argument has tentatively been scheduled for the week of January 5, 2015. Read more about the De Leon and Robicheaux cases:

TEXAS • DeLeon v. Perry

What's Happening:

On February 26, 2014, a federal judge in Texas ruled that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. The judge also issued a stay on the ruling pending appeal, so same-sex couples were not immediately allowed to receive marriage licenses. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by private counsel. The ruling was quickly appealed by the state of Texas, and on May 21, a request for an expedited appeal process was denied.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has tentatively scheduled an oral argument for the week of January 5, 2015. On October 6, the plaintiffs filed a motion for the 5th Circuit to schedule a hearing, asserting that every day of delay is a day that same-sex couples are hurt.

Key Excerpt from the Ruling (Feb. 2014):

"Texas’ current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason. Accordingly, the Court finds these laws are unconstitutional and hereby grants a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage." - Judge Orlando Garcia

Case Background:

On October 28, 2013, private lawyers in San Antonio, Texas filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry or respect for their legal marriage in Texas. In Texas, same-sex couples are prohibited from joining together in marriage because of a 2005 constitutional amendment. 

The two couples are Mark Phariss & Vic Holmes and Cleopatra De Leon & Nicole Dimetman. Pharriss and Holmes are unmarried, while De Leon and Dimetman married in Massachusetts in 2009 and are seeking respect for their marriage in Texas.

LOUISIANA • Robicheaux v. Caldwell

Consolidated with Forum for Equality Louisiana v. Barfield

What's Happening:

On September 3, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman became the first federal judge since June 2013 to uphold marriage discrimination in this federal case seeking the freedom to marry and respect for marriages performed in other states. The plaintiffs have appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. 

On October 7, Lambda Legal joined as counsel on this case. The appeal has been expedited by the 5th Circuit and is tentatively scheduled for oral argument the week of January 5, 2015. 

Case Background:

On July 16, 2013, private lawyers in New Orleans, LA filed a federal lawsuit in the 5th Circuit on behalf of a same-sex couple seeking respect for their marriage in Louisiana. The couple, Jon Robicheaux and Derek Pinton, married in Iowa in 2012 and need their home state of Louisiana to respect their marriage. The case was originally called Robicheaux v. Caldwell. 

On December 2, 2013, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman dismissed the lawsuit, explaining that the plaintiffs only named Attorney General James Caldwell as a defendant. The plaintiffs said they now plan to amend the complaint and name Secretary of the State Department of Revenue, Tim Barfiled, as the defendant. On January 13, 2014, attorneys in the case filed a new federal lawsuit, naming state officials in the Department of Health and Hospitals, and the Department of Revenue, as plaintiffs.

On February 12, 2014, the Forum for Equality Louisiana filed a separate lawsuit in federal court on behalf of four same-sex couples seeking respect for their legal marriages in Louisiana. Several of the couples - including Andrew & Nick and Jackie & Lauren - are raising young children in New Orleans, and their lawsuit reflects that having their marriages disrespected in Louisiana poses potential legal challenges - and challenges they have already been burdened with - for their family. 

On March 18, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman moved to consolidate the two cases under the Robicheaux name. A Motion for Summary Judgment was due April 17, and an oral argument was held on June 25. Shortly after, Judge Feldman requested additional briefs in order to fully consider the marriage amendment in Louisiana. 

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