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The battles to bring same-sex marriage (SSM) to Louisiana

Menu: 2013-July until now:

Activity in two lawsuits:
Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell, in state court.
Robicheaux v. Caldwell in federal court.

On 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a
ruling in an unrelated case, Obergefell v. Hodges,
legalizing gay marriage across the entire country.

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U.S. map with Louisiana highlighted Marriage by same-sex couples in Louisiana:

As of 2015-MAR-01, neither same-sex marriages nor civil unions are available in Louisiana. Marriages solemnized out-of-state are not recognized in Louisiana. Same-sex couples are considered to be "legal strangers;" the state considers them to be roommates and does not recognize or protect their relationships. If a same-sex couple is parenting a child, the state considers only one partner to be a parent; this can be life-threatening to the child in case of medical emergencies. There is little support for marriage equality among Louisiana voters. However, what support exists is increasing. It would probably take over a decade for a majority of voters to favor marriage equality. Attaining marriage equality by the courts appears to be the only path to bring about marriage equality quickly.

Louisiana is part of the "Deep South," and is one of a string of states along the Gulf of Mexico that do not currently recognize same-sex relationships. They include Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia, and until 2015-FEB, Alabama.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling during late 2015-JUN or early 2015-JUL that may bring same-sex marriage to every state in the U.S. There is a chance that a currently active state or federal lawsuit might bring same-sex marriage to Louisiana earlier.

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Timeline of the movement towards marriage equality in Louisiana:

  • 1990's: Various changes were made to state Statute LCC 3520(B) of the Louisiana Civil Code (LCC). It bans any state recognition of same-sex marriages.

  • 2004-SEP-18: The Louisiana Constitutional Amendment 1, was passed by 78% of voters. It bans same-sex marriage, civil unions, and any other state recognition of same-sex relationships.

  • 2013-JUL-12: Lawsuit Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell was filed in a Louisiana state court by a lesbian couple who had been married in California during 2008. Chastity Shanelle Brewer gave birth to a son in 2004 but her spouse, Angela Marie Costansa, is not recognized as a parent by the state. The lawsuit was subsequently renamed to Costanza v. Caldwell.

  • 2013-JUL-16: A lawsuit Robicheaux v. Caldwell was filed in federal District Court in an effort to force Louisiana to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized out-of-state. It was dismissed on a legal technicality because defendant Attorney General James Caldwell did not deny the recognition of their marriage.

  • 2013-JUL-26: The state case was dismissed. Plaintiffs subsequently appealed the case to the 15th Judicial District Court in the state court system.

  • 2014-JAN-13: The federal case Robicheaux v. Caldwell was refiled as Robicheaux v. George in federal District Court naming State Registrar Devin George as defendant.

  • 2014-FEB-12: A very similar lawsuit, Forum for Equality Louisiana v. Barfield, was also filed in federal court. Because of their similarity, the two lawsuits were consolidated as Robicheaux v. George on 2014-MAR-18.

  • 2014-SEP-03: Federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman issued his ruling in Robicheaux v. George. He found Louisiana's constitutional amendment and statute that bans same-sex marriage in the state to be constitutional! During the previous 14 months, dozens of District Court judges had decided that very similar amendments and statutes in other states were unconstitutional because they violated the Due Process and/or Equal Protection clauses in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The case was appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Later, in an unusual move, the plaintiffs also appealed their case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court without waiting for the 5th Circuit Court to issue its ruling.

  • 2014-SEP-22: State Judge Edward Rubin of the 15th Judicial District Court ruled in Costanza v. Caldwell. He found in favor of same-sex marriage in the state on the usual 14th Amendment grounds. This produced opposing rulings by the state and federal courts. The state ruling was stayed pending appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.

  • 2015-JAN-09: Oral arguments were head by the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Robicheaux v. Caldwell.

  • 2015-JAN-12: The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari to the federal case; they rejected the appeal. A few days later, they granted certiorari to a consolidated case called Obergefell v. Hodges. It involving SSM lawsuits from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The High Court held readings during April-28 and issued their ruling on 2015-JUN-26. It legalized same-sex marriage across the entire country.

  • 2015-MAR-01: The federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet issued its ruling on Robicheaux v. Caldwell, and are unlikely to do so before the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in "Obergefell." There has been no change in status for same-sex couples in Louisiana. They cannot marry in Louisiana. If they were married out-of-state, they are considered to be "legal strangers" in Louisiana -- as mere roommates -- without fundamental protections for themselves and their children.

  • 2015-JUN-26: The U.S. Supreme Court issued its anxiously awaited ruling in "Obergefell." The court legalized same-sex marriage across the entire country and make all court activities in Louisiana ineffective. The Jindal administrations refuses to allow same-sex couples to marry immediately.

  • 2015-JUL-02: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals instructs federal judges in Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas to issue SSM rulings by JUL-17. They will be final rulings and will legalize same-sex marriage in all three states.

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Topics about marriage equality in Louisiana discussed in this section:

  • Part 1: 2013 & 2014: Lawsuit Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell, was filed in a Louisiana state court. Two additional lawsuits are were heard in federal District Court.

  • Part 2: 2014: Combined federal case, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A state court in Costanza and Brewer v. Caldwell
    rules in favor of marriage equality.

  • Part 3: 2014-NOV to 2015-JAN: Federal case: Hearing held by 5th U.S. Circuit Court in Robicheaux v. Caldwell. Case is also appealed directly to U.S. Supreme Court.

  • Part 4: 2015-JAN: Comments on federal case hearing. Public opinion poll. Jan-29: State case heard in Louisiana State Court. 2015-JUN-26: The Jindal Administration initially rejects marriage equality.

  • Part 5: 2015-JUN: The U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage throughout the U.S. The Jindal administration strongly resists legalizing it in Louisiana.

  • Part 6: 2015-JUL-01: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals instructs federal judges in Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas to issue their final SSM ruling by JUL-17. The rulings will legalize gay marriage in all three states.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Louisiana," Freedom to Marry, as on 2015-MAR-01, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/

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Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > SSM sub-menu > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage > here

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2015-MAR-01
Last updated 2015-JUL-02
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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