By: Clara Lefton/TRT Reporter—
BOSTON, Mass.—The Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld same-sex marriage bans in four states—Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee—in November. Those four states can now refuse to recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other states, as well as refuse to allow same-sex couples to marry within those states. This negates the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor ruling that held the third section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limited federal recognition of same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional.
“The Sixth Circuit’s decision goes against almost every other state and federal court ruling in the past year, which have found that denying people the freedom to marry is unconstitutional. Most importantly, the decision ignores the harms that couples face when they are denied the dignity and protections of marriage,” said Michael Premo, campaign manager of Why Marriage Matters Ohio. “There is real harm in getting the call that the love of your life has been rushed to the hospital, then learning you can’t see him, you can’t hold her hand, and you can’t make medical decisions on their behalf because you’re not recognized as family.”
The recent Sixth Circuit ruling occurred in a Cincinnati, Ohio court by a 2-to-1 decision. Since it took place in the Court of Appeals, a federal court, it will likely require the U.S. Supreme Court to review same-sex marriage as applied to the states sometime this summer during the closing of the court’s current term. [pullquote]This appellate ruling is the opposite of what the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have all decided.[/pullquote]
“It takes four justices to decide to take the case up,” said Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project. “Justice Ginsburg had [said] about a month ago that the court was not necessarily in a hurry to take up a marriage case unless there was a split in one of the Circuit Court of Appeals, and she made specific reference … with the 6th Circuit so now we have a split and now’s the time. There’s too much of a patchwork—the court needs to resolve this issue and we need finality on this.”
This appellate ruling is the opposite of what the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have all decided. The deciding justice, Jeffrey Sutton, founded the turn around on letting states have the capability to oversee themselves and distancing himself from what he considered social issues.
“If there is any silver lining to be found, it is that the U.S. Supreme Court is more likely to take up the issue of marriage equality this term, and may finally provide the national resolution this issue deserves,” Premo expressed. “The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decisions have been overturned by the Supreme Court more than 81 percent of the time, the highest of any Circuit Court of Appeals in the country, and we are hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn this ruling and provide all loving and committed couples the freedom to marry across the country.”
Although many states are still facing a variety of debates with regards to LGBTQ rights, other states have finalized the issue of same-sex marriage. In particular, Massachusetts became the first state, back in 2004, to recognize same-sex marriage as legal.
“We in Massachusetts know from 10 years of experience that communities are healthier and families are stronger when everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We look forward to the day when communities all over America benefit from the freedom to marry,” stated K.C. Coredini, executive director of MassEquality. “In the end, the 1st Circuit will be on the right side of history in having paved a path toward greater freedom and justice for LGBTQ families. It’s inspiring to witness the momentum for marriage equality across our country that began here in Massachusetts.”
CURRENTLY, 35 states offer same-sex marriage in the U.S. today. The District of Columbia (D.C.) and 18 states forbid employment discrimination based on gender identity, while 21 states and D.C. forbid employment discrimination with regards to sexual orientation. [pullquote]“We in Massachusetts know from 10 years of experience that communities are healthier and families are stronger when everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We look forward to the day when communities all over America benefit from the freedom to marry,” stated K.C. Coredini, executive director of MassEquality.[/pullquote]
“The nation has its priorities wrong personally, and we should first guarantee employment, housing, and healthcare non-discrimination before fighting for marriage equality,” said Jane*, a Vanderbilt University School of Nursing student and Tennessee resident of three years. “Right now, for example, you can legally marry a same-sex partner in North Carolina, put an announcement in the paper, and lose your job and your housing the next day, because there are no state-level protections for employment and housing in NC. Every day that I choose to do LGBTQI advocacy work, I am putting my housing at risk, and while I would love the right to marry, I would prefer to know that a landlord couldn’t choose to evict me for who I love.”
It is possible that the U.S. Supreme Court will address the issue of same-sex marriage between June and July, when the court’s current term will end.
For more information on the Sixth Circuit decision, visit http://tiny.cc/hem1px.
*Jane requested that her name be kept anonymous as a precaution against employment and housing discrimination.