HRC Blog

Seventh Circuit Rules Bans on Marriage Equality Unconstitutional

Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in cases from two states – Indiana and Wisconsin – that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional.  Baskin v. Bogan of Indiana – which was consolidated with Lee v. Pence and Midori Fujii v. State of Indiana – and Wisconsin's Walker v. Wolf were argued before a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit late last month. In the unanimous ruling today, Judge Richard Posner – a Ronald Reagan appointee – wrote, “The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction – that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended – is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously.” 

"Today yet another federal appeals court issued a ruling affirming that no state should be able to tell two people in love they can’t legally marry, just because they are gay or lesbian," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "LGBT families in these two states are just as deserving of the rights and protections that come with civil marriage as any other family across the country.  The Supreme Court of the United States today has even more evidence that marriage equality should be the law of the land in America." 

Aside from the cases decided today by the Seventh Circuit, cases from nine other states are currently pending before four federal appeals courts.  The Tenth and Fourth Circuits both recently upheld rulings striking down state bans on marriage equality – Kitchen v. Herbert of Utah and Bishop v. Smith of Oklahoma in the Tenth Circuit, and Bostic v. Shaefer of Virginia in the Fourth Circuit.  In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in federal or state court.  Since the Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 21 federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional, with only one ruling in federal court upholding a ban.  These rulings have come from judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents.

The Supreme Court is under no obligation as to which case or cases – if any – it choses to hear on appeal.   However, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently told reporters the Court will not “duck” a marriage case.  "I think the court will not do what they did in the old days when they continually ducked the issue of miscegenation," Ginsburg said. "If a case is properly before the court, they will take it."

Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins.  And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group.  According to ABC News / Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality.  40 percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent,according to the New York Times.  These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down. 

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.  For more information on this and other marriage equality cases across the country, visit www.americansformarriageequality.org

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