News

U.S. appeals court takes up gay marriage cases from 4 states

U.S. appeals court takes up gay marriage cases from 4 states

APPEALS: Mike Woods, 28, and Brandon Parsons, 30, embrace on the Pennsylvania State Capital steps following a rally with gay rights supporters after a ruling struck down a ban on same sex marriage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on May 20. Photo: Reuters

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The national battle over same-sex marriage will resume on Wednesday when a federal appeals court in Cincinnati convenes a special three-hour hearing to consider cases that have worked their way up from lower courts in four different states.

In all of the six cases to be heard, lower court judges have sided with gay rights advocates either by striking down state bans on gay marriage, or by requiring state governments to recognize gay marriages from states where they are legal.

Federal appeals courts play a crucial role in flagging legal issues for potential U.S. Supreme Court review. So all eyes will be on whether or not the Cincinnati court concurs with other courts that have backed gay marriage in the past year.

“The courts that have ruled so far have created a judicial consensus that is striking and almost unprecedented on a civil rights issue,” said James Esseks, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which backs gay marriage.

Gay marriage opponents do not dispute that, but point out that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue.

“Everybody knows that regardless of what a particular court rules, this will eventually end up at the Supreme Court,” said Austin Nimocks, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group that objects to same-sex marriage.

Cincinnati’s 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals specifically will have to decide whether to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Michigan and Kentucky, both of which were approved by voters in 2004. In four other cases, the court will weigh whether Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky should be ordered to recognize gay marriages that take place in states where they are legal.

Legal experts expect one or more gay marriage case to be taken up by the Supreme Court in the term that begins this October and runs until June 2015.

The Cincinnati-based court is the third federal appeals court to take up gay marriage since June 2013. That was when the Supreme Court, ruling in United States v. Windsor, struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and extended spousal benefits available under federal law to same-sex married couples.

The Windsor decision sparked a new wave of litigation, with more than 20 federal and state courts subsequently ruling against same-sex marriage bans.

At the appeals court level, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in recent months invalidated bans in Utah and Oklahoma, while the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban in July.

The three judges hearing the cases in Cincinnati are Jeffrey Sutton and Deborah Cook, both appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, and Martha Craig Daughtrey, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Lawyers on both sides will pay close attention to Sutton, who is seen as a star among conservative lawyers and could be the deciding vote.

Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, additional reporting by Joan Biskupic; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tom Brown)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

REVIEW: Strong cast helps ‘Rogue Nation’ create a blast of entertainment

Fresh
20-overlay10

In the latest installment of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, Tom Cruise may have finally found a marriage that will work.

in Music

Yoko Ono unveils Ellis Island tapestry dedicated to John Lennon

24-overlay19

The tapestry was commissioned by Art For Amnesty to thank Ono for donating royalties from covers of Lennon's solo songs to Amnesty International.

in Sports, Weird

WATCH: Miami Marlins play dirty

15-overlay18

After the Washington Nationals started playing soft rock during opponent's batting practices, the Marlins decided to pay them back with some trolling in the form of fart noises.

in Viral Videos

WATCH: Man rolls under train in heart-stopping video

22-overlay17

Witnesses couldn't believe their eyes when they saw a man purposely rolling under a moving train.

in Entertainment

‘Star Trek,’ ‘Superman’ costumes up for auction

nimoy2

Costumes worn by late actors Leonard Nimoy and Christopher Reeves are going under the hammer.