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Monday, August 04, 2014

Courts - 6th Circuit: "4 states' gay marriage bans under fire"

Chrissie Thompson and Amber Hunt reported yesterday in the Cincinnati Enquirer in a long story that begins:

The broadest attack yet on states' gay marriage bans will be Wednesday in a packed courtroom in downtown Cincinnati, where lawyers challenging four states' prohibitions will stand shoulder to shoulder in hopes of convincing a three-judge panel that the bans are unconstitutional.

The states – Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee – have so far waged their battles separately, fighting to uphold the bans that voters years ago embraced. Each state faces slightly different challenges filed by same-sex couples, including the right to adopt children as a couple, to have their names placed on a partner's death certificate and to have their marriages – performed legally elsewhere – recognized in the states they call home, where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Despite the variations in the attacks, make no mistake: The ultimate targets are the bans, and the real goal is the right to marry, adopt children and enjoy the same rights that opposite-sex couples have when they exchange vows.

"Putting all of the arguments on the same day back-to-back is certainly unusual and actually a very good move," said Al Gerhardstein, the lawyer heading the challenge to Ohio's same-sex marriage ban. "That way the panel gets the benefit of all the arguments at once, giving them a chance at harmonizing the law in this area."

This 6th Circuit argument Wednesday will be followed three weeks later by Indiana and Wisconsin's oral arguments before our 7th Circuit on Aug. 26th. Unlike the 7th Circuit, the 6th does not wait until the day of the argument to reveal the names of the panel members:
Two of the three appellate judges to consider the bans' fate were appointed by President George W. Bush, including one whose nomination was opposed by liberal groups who deemed him a threat to civil rights.

That judge, Jeffrey S. Sutton, is a states' rights advocate who has argued against federal laws protecting people with disabilities, women and minorities. In 2012, he wrote an opinion for the appellate court that reinstated a suit filed by an evangelical Christian who lost her spot in a counseling program at a Michigan university for refusing to work with clients in same-sex relationships.

He joins judges Deborah L. Cook, a Bush appointee, and Martha Craig Daughtrey, a Covington native who was appointed by President Bill Clinton.

The political divide is noteworthy: Two other appellate panels have already ruled in gay-marriage ban cases with 2-1 decisions.

Legal experts caution against using the judges' backgrounds to determine how they'll rule.

"That's too simplistic of an analysis," said Pierre Bergeron, a lawyer with Squire Sanders' Cincinnati office who has argued cases before all three 6th Circuit judges on the panel. "What you see is courts across the country, regardless of ideological perspective, striking down the gay marriage ban. Certainly there's an element of liberal-conservative to it, but I don't think that's going to be the driver at the end of the day." * * *

Wednesday's hearing will be a three-hour marathon of arguments from each state, beginning with Michigan, then followed by Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 4, 2014 10:11 AM
Posted to Courts in general