Confusion in the Courts

Confusion in the Courts

same-sex marriage and courtsToo many courts; too many rulings on marriage.  How do you make sense of it all?

By Diane Robertson

Conflicting court rulings in Louisiana has left the state confused. At the beginning of the month federal district Judge, Martin Feldman ruled that Louisiana’s marriage law was constitutional and that the state need not recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. Then on Monday, a state judge, Edward D. Rubin handed down an opposing ruling.

He ordered officials to legally affirm a marriage from a lesbian couple that wedded in California and to officially approve an adoption of a boy by his mother’s partner as well as to allow the couple to file a joint state tax return.

But Judge Rubin did not stop there. He ruled that Louisiana’s marriage law is unconstitutional in that it violates the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, as well as the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.

The state of Louisiana is expected to appeal Judge Rubin’s decision to higher state courts. Same sex couples have already appealed Judge Feldman’s ruling to the fifth circuit court.

Are you confused?

This is how it works. There are federal courts and state courts. The appeals process in federal courts start in district courts, which can be appealed to circuit courts, which can be appealed to the Supreme Court. In between the circuit court and the Supreme Court, lawyers can ask the full panel of judges on the circuit court to review the case. State courts have various city and county courts that can appeal to state district and state circuit courts. Those courts then appeal to the state’s Supreme Court which can then be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. There are two routes to the Supreme Court.

So yes, the state of Louisiana could be asking the Supreme Court to review their law twice. There are 31 states that have adopted constitutional marriage amendments through voter initiative. Most, if not all, of these states have lawsuits on their way to the Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court could decide not to retake the issue of same sex marriage, it is likely that this confusion will not be resolved until they do. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on hearing the same sex marriage cases in Utah and Oklahoma by the end of this month.

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