The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Nov. 6 overturned lower court rulings that struck down Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee bans on marriage equality.
Until this ruling, no state marriage ban had survived a federal circuit court ruling.
The 2-1 decision by the Sixth Circuit creates a circuit court split, which increases the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court taking up the issue in the near future, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
HRC prresident Chad Griffin, in a statement released after the ruling, said, “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.”
Chase Strangio, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said, “This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia. It is shameful and wrong that John Arthur’s death certificate may have to be revised to list him as single and erase his husband’s name as his surviving spouse.
“We believe it’s wholly unconstitutional to deny same sex couples and their families access to the rights and respect that all other families receive. We will be filing for Supreme Court review right away and hope that through this deeply disappointing ruling we will be able to bring a uniform rule of equality to the entire country.”
Today’s ruling was an attempt by the two judges to appeal to U.S. 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.