Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Louisiana
Part 2: During 2014:
Combined federal case, Robicheaux v. Caldwell,
the 5th U.S.
Court of Appeals.
A state court in Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell
of marriage equality.
2014-OCT-07: Federal case: Robicheaux v. George.
Lambda Legal joined the legal team.
The number of plaintiff couples had grown to seven. Lambda Legal's Senior Counsel Kenneth D. Upton, Jr. said:
"Only [this] one federal court since Windsor [v. United States] has concluded on the merits that the Constitution permits the government to exclude same-sex couples and their children from marriage. We are proud to join a strong legal team appealing this decision to secure equal dignity and respect for all Louisiana families."
"After dozens of well-reasoned state and federal district and appellate court rulings have come down over the past year striking down similar discriminatory bans nationwide, it is deeply distressing that the district court here came to a different conclusion. We look forward to working with co-counsel and these brave plaintiffs to overturn this decision on appeal."
The combined cases was appealed together to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This Circuit Court has jurisdiction over three states in the Deep South: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
During 2014-OCT, the 5th Circuit Court scheduled oral arguments in the combined lawsuit to be heard during the week of 2015-JAN-05.
2014: State case: "Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell" progresses:
Review of this case, so far:
Angela Marie Costanza and Chastity Shanelle Brewer are residents of Lafayette, LA. They were legally married in California in 2008-AUG. The marriage occurred during the window of about five months duration when same-sex couples were able to marry. In May of that year, the California Supreme Court had ruled in favor of marriage equality, and same-sex couples married immediately. About 36,000 lesbians, gays, and bisexuals married a person of the same gender. On election day in early November, the citizen initiative -- Proposition 8 -- was narrowly passed by voters. It banned marriages by same-sex couples once more.
Ms. Brewer had conceived via in-vitro fertilization and gave birth to a son in 2004-AUG. Because the state does not recognize their marriage, Ms. Costanza was not permitted to legally adopt their son, as spouses in opposite-sex marriages routinely do. That could be a life-threatening situation in the event of a medical emergency.
They filed a lawsuit called: Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell in state court, on 2013-JUL-12 seeking to have their out-of-state marriage recognized in Louisiana, and for Ms Constanza to be allowed to adopt her son. 6
On 2013-JUL-26, Judge Edward B. Broussard dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the case to the 15th Judicial District Court.
Subsequent developments in 2014:
- On 2014-FEB-05, Judge Edward Rubin of the 15th Judicial District Court reversed the dismissal and granted the second-parent adoption so that Chastity Brewer became recognized by the state as a parent to the couple's son.
8 Both of the son's parents then became recognized by the state.
- Hearings were held on 2014-SEP-15 on the matter of the couple's out-of-state marriage. The defendants maintained:
"... that Louisiana's marriage and adoption laws pass rational basis review because the state has a legitimate interest in a) linking children to intact families formed by their biological parents, and b) ensuring that fundamental social change occurs through widespread social consensus. ... In every known human society, the institution developed 'to solidify, standardize, and legalize the relationship between a man, a woman, and their offspring is civil marriage between one man and one woman."
The last statement is true: when a woman and a man and their offspring (if any) who want to solidify their relationship, they often get married. But the statement does not touch on the question raised by the plaintiffs: whether two women or two men and their offspring (if any) who want to solidify their relationship, should be allowed to marry.
- On 2014-SEP-22, Judge Edward D Rubin
ruled in favor of marriage equality. Judge Rubin based his decision on three criteria: that the same-sex marriage ban:
- Violates the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
- Violates the Equal Protection clause of the same amendment.
- Violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the U.S. Constitution. This clause requires states to recognize the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state."
The State of Louisiana is hereby ordered to recognize the Petitioners' marriage validly contracted in California as lawsuit in this state, pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit guaranteed by Article IV Section 1. of the United Stated [sic] Constitution." 10
He also ruled that the state allow other same-sex couples to marry in Louisiana.
He rejected the arguments that had been put forward by the state. They had felt that same-sex marriage should not be allowed in the state until there is a widespread consensus among the voters in favor of marriage equality. They had also argued that opposite-sex marriage generally keeps children connected directly with both of their biological parents -- a factor that is currently impossible with same-sex couples with the current stage of scientific techniques. He concluded that there is no rational basis to support a ban on marriage equality and that therefore the three clauses in the U.S. Constitution are directly applicable to the couple's marriage. 10
He cited two U.S. Supreme Court opinions -- Milwaukee County v. M.E. White Co. in 1935 and Sherrer v. Sherrer in 1948 -- to support the applicability of the "full faith and credit" clause and thus conclude that Louisiana must recognize out-of-state marriages.
On 2014-SEP-26, the State of Louisiana appealed Judge Rubin's decision directly to Louisiana Supreme Court. 11 His SEP-22 ruling has been stayed pending the decision of the higher court.
2014-OCT-28: Federal case: Impacts in other states that might have resulted from the Robicheaux v. Caldwell before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals:
This case might have an impact not only on same-sex couples in Louisiana but also such couples in adjacent states and even far beyond Louisiana in the future:
- If the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were to rule in favor of marriage equality as the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuit Courts did during the summer of 2014, then the State of Louisiana would be almost certain to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, when the previous three Circuit Courts' rulings were appealed, the high court refused to accept them. This caused same-sex marriage to be legalized directly in five states. It also made same-sex marriage settled law within all the states under the jurisdiction of the three Circuit Courts. This eventually brought marriage equality to another six states, although some states resisted the change. If the high court is consistent and refuses in the future to accept the appeal from the 5th Circuit, then marriage equality would be settled law in Louisiana. Further it would probably be legalized in the two other states under the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit: Mississippi and Texas.
- If the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were to rule against marriage equality, then the U.S. Supreme Court would be faced with a situation that it might find intolerable: the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuit Courts having ruled for marriage equality and the 5th and 6th Circuit Court having ruling against. With such a conflict, the high court might be motivated to accept the appeal of the 5th and/or 6th Circuit Courts cases in late 2015, hold hearings in early 2016, and issue a ruling in mid-2016 which might legalize same-sex marriage across the entire United States.
Either way, the decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could have conceivably affected a lot of loving, committed same-sex couples, many of them living well beyond Louisiana.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Robicheaux v. George," Marriage Equality Wiki, 2014, at: http://marriage.wikia.com/
- "5th Circuit schedules hearings in appeals of Texas, Louisiana gay marriage rulings," LGBTQNation, 2014-OCT-27, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
- "Forum for Equality Louisiana v. Barfield," LGBTQNation, 2014, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
- "Lambda Legal joins appeal of Louisiana marriage ruling to 5th Circuit," LGBTQNation, 2014-OCT-07, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
- "Gay Marriage Suffers First Defeat In Federal Court Since SCOTUS Ruling," Talking Points Memo, 2014-SEP-03, at: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/
- "Louisiana judge rules in favor of the freedom to marry, 40th victory since June ‘13," Lesbian News, 2014-SEP-22, at: http://lesbiannews.com/
- Hope Ford, "Same-sex legal in Louisiana... for now," KLFY News 10, 2014-SEP-23, at: http://www.klfy.com/
- "Louisiana," Freedom To Marry, 2014, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
- Judge Martin Feldman, "Order and Reasons," U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, 2014-SEP-03, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
- Judge Edward Rubin, "Ruling: 'Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell," 15th Judicial District Court, Louisiana, 2014-SEP-22, at: http://freedomtomarry.org/ This is a PDF file.
- Chris Geidner, "Louisiana Judge Rules Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional, Clashing With Federal Court," Buzz Feed, 2014-SEP-22, at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/
- Trudy Ring, "Supreme Court Inches Closer to Marriage Decision," The Advocate, 2014-DEC-18. at: http://www.advocate.com/
Copyright © 2014 & 2015by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 2014-OCT-29
Last updated 2015-JAN-01
Author: Bruce A Robinson