Following a string of federal court victories, the same-sex marriage movement was dealt a major setback Sept. 3 when U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriages. Feldman ruled that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the ban violated either Equal Protection or Due Process constitutional safeguards.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals the next morning. The case ultimately could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on how (and when) the High Court rules on pending same-sex marriage cases that are farther along in the judicial pipeline.
In 2004, the Louisiana Legislature voted to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. Louisiana voters added the ban to the state constitution later that year. Feldman’s ruling last week in the case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell
means Louisiana can continue to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in other states.
Feldman’s decision came roughly four months after he combined two same-sex marriages cases — one filed in New Orleans and one filed in Shreveport. The suits were brought by the gay-rights organization Forum For Equality Louisiana and six same-sex married couples whose marriages had been solemnized in other states:
• Jacqueline and Lauren Brettner of New Orleans (married in New York in 2012);
• Nick Van Sickels and Andrew Bond of New Orleans (married in Washington D.C. in 2012);
• Henry Lambert and Carey Bond (no relation to Andrew Bond) of New Orleans (married in New York in 2011);
• Derek Penton-Robicheaux and Jon Penton-Robicheaux of New Orleans (married in Iowa in 2012);
• Courtney and Nadine Blanchard of Raceland (married in Iowa in 2013); and
• Havard Scott and Sergio March Prieto of Shreveport (married in Vermont in 2010).
Feldman joined the two cases in June, saying he did not want to make a “piecemeal” ruling but preferred to address the state’s constitutional ban directly. At that time, Jacqueline Brettner told Gambit
, “If I had to ask any of my heterosexual friends in an opposite-sex marriage, which of their fundamental rights they would be willing to put to a vote, I think that would be a very difficult question to answer, if not impossible.” She added, “I look forward to being on the right side of history.”
In a statement following last week’s ruling, Brettner said, “Today’s decision, while disappointing, was not unexpected. It shows the importance of the challenge and why it is necessary to seek equal protection for all LGBT citizens of Louisiana.”