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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Sixth Circuit Considers Same-Sex Marriage Cases

The DeBoer same sex marriage and adoption case made big news in Michigan last spring when, following a bench trial, federal judge Bernard Friedman invalidated Michigan's ban against same-sex marriages.  The Michigan Attorney General filed an appeal to the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and had the ruling stayed, almost immediately.

A series of 6 cases from each of the states within the geography of the Sixth Circuit were argued on the same day before a 3-judge panel to determine whether banning same-sex marriage is constitutional.  Interestingly, and as a matter of legal convenience, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee each have a state constitutional provision banning same-sex marriage.

The cases have pitted states rights and conservative groups against those that believe the right to marry is a fundamental right under the United States Constitution.

According to news reports from those present at the nearly 4-hour session, the judges wore their politics on their robes.  Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, a Clinton appointee, seemed to favor the gay marriage advocates, while Bush appointee Judge Deborah Cook sparred with her left-leaning colleague.  As is often the case with 3-judge panels, one jurist stays poker-faced; this time, it was Bush appointee, Judge Jeffery Sutton.

Since the SCOTUS decision in United States v Windsor, nearly every state's federal court system has cultivated a same-sex marriage case, usually challenging the constitutionality of a state law that bans or limits the rights of same-sex couples.  Many of these cases are now on appeal in the federal Circuits.

A common legal thread to the cases is whether the so-called "heightened scrutiny" should be brought to bear on a statutory classification based on sexual orientation or preference under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The Supreme Court left this question open in its seminal Windsor decision.

This blogger was down in Cincinnati in June arguing a civil rights appeal, I have yet to receive a decision on my case.  So it could be the end of the year before we hear how the Sixth Circuit is going to decide the matter.

It looks to us over here at the Law Blogger that the SCOTUS will have to grant certiorari on one or more of these cases percolating up through the appellate courts.

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