Thursday, November 06, 2014

6th Circuit Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In DeBoer v. Snyder, (6th Circuit, Nov. 6, 2014), in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today became the first federal circuit court to uphold state bans on same-sex marriage and on recognition of same sex-marriages performed elsewhere.  Departing from decisions by the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, the court upheld state statutory and constitutional provisions from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Judge Sutton, writing for the majority, summarized his approach:
What remains is a debate about whether to allow the democratic processes begun in the States to continue in the four States of the Sixth Circuit or to end them now by requiring all States in the Circuit to extend the definition of marriage to encompass gay couples. Process and structure matter greatly in American government. Indeed, they may be the most reliable, liberty assuring guarantees of our system of government, requiring us to take seriously the route the United States Constitution contemplates for making such a fundamental change to such a fundamental social institution.
Judge Daughtry dissenting said in part:
In the main, the majority treats both the issues and the litigants here as mere abstractions.  Instead of recognizing the plaintiffs as persons, suffering actual harm as a result of being denied the right to marry where they reside or the right to have their valid marriages recognized there, my colleagues view the plaintiffs as social activists who have somehow stumbled into federal court, inadvisably, when they should be out campaigning to win “the hearts and minds” of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee voters to their cause. But these plaintiffs are not political zealots trying to push reform on their fellow citizens; they are committed same-sex couples, many of them heading up de facto families, who want to achieve equal status....
SCOTUSblog reporting on the 6th Circuit's decision speculated that the split among circuits that it creates is likely to lead to Supreme Court review unless en banc review from the 6th Circuit is sought and granted.