Louisiana was one of the last states to give up the fight and start issuing same-sex marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court decision a couple months ago that overturned this state’s constitutional definition of marriage as being between only one woman and one man.
Clerks of court and state agencies, following Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lead, dragged their feet in the days after the historic June 26 decision. It took a New Orleans federal judge — one whose initial opinion agreed with them — to order the state to modify marriage license forms, allow the filing of joint tax returns and otherwise send all this legal dawdling off to perdition.
During the nine weeks since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, most of the states have complied, Shannon Mintor, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told The Associated Press last week.
That’s not to say pockets of resistance aren’t still around.
In rural Rowan County, Kentucky, for instance, County Clerk Kim Davis defied court orders Thursday and refused to issue licenses. To do so would go against her Apostolic Christian beliefs that object to gay marriage, she argued.
The relative quiet in Louisiana is surprising, given Jindal’s reaction and the 77.8 percent vote in 2004 that supported adding to the state constitution a definition that marriage can be only between one man and one woman.
Further fighting, says Matthew Patterson, of Equality Louisiana, is unnecessary because Obergefell found Article 12, Section 15 unconstitutional.
“It is no longer law. Period. Full stop,” Patterson said. The statewide group, which advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community, has moved on to other issues.
But on the gubernatorial campaign trail, when asked by the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish, “Will you support efforts to retain Louisiana law that marriage is between one man and one woman?” U.S. Sen. David Vitter, of Metairie, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, were unequivocal: “Yes.”
“I firmly believe,” Angelle went on, “that marriage is between one man and one woman. I believe it’s a private commitment that serves an important public purpose.”
Vitter wrote: “I have co-authored legislation to protect states’ historic rights and role in defining marriage without encroachment by the federal government.”
Fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge, told the local party that he voted in the state Senate for the constitutional amendment defining marriage but that the Supreme Court changed all of that. “I will not spend tax dollars to challenge the ruling,” he wrote.
Amite Rep. John Bel Edwards, the only Democrat in the race, wasn’t asked to fill out the questionnaire but answered the question similarly, saying “notwithstanding my personal opinion on this matter,” the high court has ruled. “As a governor who will take an oath to uphold the Constitution, I will not persist in futile, wasteful efforts to work around that decision.”
(Baton Rouge Republicans gave their endorsement to Angelle and Vitter on Aug. 20.)
Social issues, so far, have taken a backseat to a focus on problems within the state’s budget structure.
But that doesn’t mean the evangelical community has forgotten, said Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum. The hugely influential group advocates for conservative Christian values in state government policy.
Evangelical Christians will be basing their voting decisions, in a large part, on the positions on this issue. “They want to know how we’re going to acclimate to this decision or how we’re going to resist this decision,” Mills said.
The majority on the high court overturned centuries of beliefs and imposed a new standard by judicial fiat. “This was an illegitimate way to change the constitution,” Mills said, arguing that people can better resolve shifts in the culture through democratic means, debate then vote.
From a purely mathematical point of view, it’s not an issue candidates can blow off. An Aug. 13 survey by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab found that 56 percent of the registered Louisiana voters who identified themselves as Christians, called themselves evangelical or born-again.
In addition to the gubernatorial campaigns, Mills says the issue is likely to pop again during the next legislative session. He noted that researchers are going line by line, looking for mentions of gender in the state’s law, and there is talk of an omnibus bill that would align the state’s statutes with the Supreme Court ruling.
So while all is presently quiet on the same-sex marriage front, a storm is brewing that has yet to pop up on the radar.