5th Circuit Court

5th Circuit Court


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.

On January 9, 2015, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit heard oral arguments in three federal marriage cases - one from Texas, De Leon v. Perry, and one from Mississippi, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, in which the state's marriage bans were struck down in February and November 2014, and one from Louisiana, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, in which a federal judge issued one of the few federal rulings upholding marriage discrimination. A ruling is still pending in the cases. Read more about each of the 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. Although plaintiffs, represented by private counsel from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, have asked for the stay to be lifted in the ruling so that same-sex couples can marry while the appeal is considered, Judge Garcia denied the request, leaving the matter to the 5th Circuit. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by private counsel. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled an oral argument for January 9, 2015. 

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 appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, where an oral argument was scheduled for January 9. On October 7, Lambda Legal joined as counsel on this case. Learn more here. 

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 Penton, 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. 

MISSISSIPPI • Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant

What's Happening:

On November 25, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves ruled in this federal legal case that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in Mississippi is unconstitutional. The case was brought on behalf of two same-sex couples and the Campaign for Southern Equality by private counsel, including Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson. Attorney General Jim Hood has appealed the case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and an oral argument was scheduled for January 9. 

Case Background:

On October 20, 2014, a new federal legal case was filed seeking the freedom to marry in Mississippi on behalf of the Campaign for Southern Equality and two same-sex couples. The lead attorney, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, led the case that brought down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act at the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013. Plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, Mississippi.

The couples in the case are Andrea Sanders and Rebecca Bickett, who want to marry in their home state, and Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb, who are fighting for their marriage in Maine to be respected back home.

Lead counsel Roberta Kaplan, who also represented Edie Windsor in the landmark case United States v. Windsor, said, "The Supreme Court took a gigantic step forward last year in Windsor, and since then, dozens of courts around the country have followed suit so that today, gay people in thirty-two states have the right to marry. It is now time to take the next big step by making sure that gay families in Mississippi are accorded these same protections. The Supreme Court has made it clear that no matter where a gay person lives —whether it is in Maine, Minnesota, or Mississippi—our Constitution requires that they be treated with the same dignity and respect under the law as everyone else.

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