Shameful Sixth Circuit Decision Upholds Discriminatory Marriage Bans in MI, KY, TN, & OH

by Charles Joughin

After five consecutive federal circuit court rulings in favor of equality, appeals court upholds state bans on marriage for same-sex couples

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned lower court rulings that struck down Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee bans on marriage equality.  Until today, no state marriage ban had survived a federal circuit court ruling. What’s more, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an order last month allowing the pro-marriage equality rulings from the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits to stand, immediately making marriage for same-sex couples possible in five new states – with many more following soon after.  The decision today by the Sixth Circuit creates a circuit court split, which increases the likelihood of the Supreme Court taking up the issue in the near future.  In response to today’s ruling, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“The legacies of Judges Deborah Cook and Jeffrey Sutton will forever be cemented on the wrong side of history. Today the Sixth Circuit stood in the way of a path constructed by two dozen federal court rulings over the last year – a path that inevitably leads to nationwide marriage equality. Gay and lesbian couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are just as deserving of marriage equality as the rest of America. Now, more than ever before, the Supreme Court of the United States must take up the issue and decide once and for all whether the Constitution allows for such blatant discrimination.  We believe that justice and equality will prevail.” 

Today’s ruling was an attempt by the two judges to appeal to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s prior opinions regarding the validity of state constitutional amendments, specifically his opinion in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

The plaintiffs now have the option to request an appeal before the full bench of the Sixth Circuit, known as en banc. The Sixth Circuit decides whether or not to grant that request.  If denied, the plaintiffs may appeal today’s ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The plaintiffs may also bypass an en banc session and appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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