For the first time since the Supreme Court issued its landmark cases on gay marriage last year, a federal judge in Louisiana has upheld a state ban on gay marriage.
“Louisiana’s laws and constitution are directly related to achieving marriage’s historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents,” Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana wrote in his 32-page opinion released today.
“The court is persuaded,” Feldman, a Reagan appointee, said, “that a meaning of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today, is not universally irrational on the constitutional grid”.
In the opinion, Feldman relied upon United States v. Windsor, the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down a federal law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Feldman quoted Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion and noted that it relied heavily on federalism principles.
But Feldman also acknowledged that other federal judges have used equal-protection language in other parts of Windsor to strike down state bans on gay marriage and expressed a concern for a limiting principle.
“For example,” he wrote, “must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs.”
Ian Millhiser of the progressive group ThinkProgress was quick to condemn the ruling. “After a disastrous losing streak in the federal courts – every single federal court to consider the question after the Supreme Court struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 has sided against marriage discrimination – Team Anti-Gay finally found a single court in Louisiana that was willing to stand up for the principle that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry,” he said.
But Byron Banione of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom praised the decision. “The people of Louisiana – and the people of every state – should continue to have the authority to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws,” he said in a statement. “The district court in this case was right to conclude, as the U.S. Supreme Court did in its Windsor decision last year, that marriage law is the business of the states.”
The case is sure to be appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. So far two different appeals court have struck down state bans on gay marriage. Since Windsor, there has been no split in the federal courts of appeal on this issue.