Same-sex marriage bans have been upheld by a federal appeals court. A 2-to-1 vote by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned lower-court decisions in the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee that had decided that the laws were unconstitutional. The final decision was written by Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. It was the only ruling to uphold such bans and contradict previous rulings made by four different circuit courts.
Sutton is quoted as writing in his majority opinion that he believed this decision rested not within the courts of the United States but within the democratic processes in the states. U.S. Circuit Judge Deborah Cook agreed with Sutton’s opinion and also voted to uphold the bans. She is a fellow Bush appointee. In dissent, Judge Martha Craig Daughtry, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, said the opinion is an “irrelevant discourse” on both federalism and democracy and that is treated those involved as “mere abstractions” instead of people who suffer because their equal status was denied. Sutton was the deciding factor between the other two opposing judges.
The same-sex marriage bans upheld by the federal appeals court included cases involving a Cincinnati widower who wants the name of his deceased husband listed on the death certificate as his spouse so that their graves will be beside each other in a “family-only” plot. As well as a couple from Tennessee who both would like to be listed on the birth certificate of their newborn daughter. President of Human Rights Campaign is quoted as saying that the judges legacies will be cemented forever on the “wrong side” and that the couples in these states deserve marriage equality just like the rest of the US.
This ruling is following over 20 court victories for same-sex marriage supporters since part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court last year. The Supreme Court has denied appeals from multiple states who have sought to ban same couple unions. This ruling resulted in the legalization of gay marriage in 30 states. The decision made in Cincinnati will more than likely force the Supreme Court to make a final decision on whether or not same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.
Same-sex marriage has a long history in the US. The first recorded instance of a legal ruling involving it was in the 1970s when the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the request of two men who applied for a marriage license. The gay rights movement has gained momentum since then from the first same-sex marriage on an American drama in 1991 to 2004 when the first same-sex couple was married in San Francisco and Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it. Now, in 2014, there are 32 states that have legalized gay marriage by legislation, popular vote or court rulings. It is also legal in the District of Columbia.
This most recent decision by the federal appeals court to uphold the bans on same-sex marriage in these four states isn’t likely to put much of a hitch in the movement to legalize gay marriage across the US. It has drawn the attention of American citizens and tensions will continue to rise as states wait for the Supreme Court to address the issue and come to a final resolution.
By Clara Goode
Photo by bebouchard – Flickr license