Lawyers on both sides of a same-sex marriage case urged Louisiana’s Supreme Court on Thursday to rule soon on the matter even though the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to do so by late June.
Kyle Duncan, making the state’s argument that its ban on same-sex marriage should stand, argued that the nation’s highest court “needs as much input as possible on this issue, especially from state supreme courts.”
Paul Baier and Josh Guillory, arguing on behalf of two women legally married in California, said the case involves an urgent question about whether one can adopt the child of the other. “At the heart of this matter is a 10-year-old little boy,” Guillory said.
Louisiana voters approved a 2004 amendment to the state constitution that bans same-sex marriages in the state and forbids the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions. In September, state District Judge Edward Rubin, of Lafayette, ruled the ban unconstitutional. The case involved Angela Costanza and her wife, Chasity Brewer. Rubin ruled that Constanza may adopt Brewer’s son and be listed as a parent on his birth certificate.
Rubin’s ruling, which was suspended pending appeal, only affects the state’s 15th Judicial District: Lafayette, Acadia and Vermilion parishes. The case has been widely overshadowed by federal cases, including another September ruling in which U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans upheld Louisiana’s ban.
Gay marriage advocates took the Feldman ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments on the same day it considered rulings knocking down bans in neighboring Mississippi and Texas. The 5th Circuit’s decision is pending.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court announced earlier this month that it will take up the case of gay and lesbian plaintiffs in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — states where gay marriage bans were upheld by a federal appeals court in Ohio.
The high court’s ruling expected by late June would settle splits among appellate courts. Most of those appellate decisions have favored gay marriage advocates and gay marriage is legal in 36 states. Alabama is poised to become the 37th. A federal judge there knocked down that state’s gay marriage ban in a ruling that has been at least temporarily stayed.
As has happened in earlier arguments in other courts, both sides touched on the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Windsor” case, which struck down law forbidding federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages.
Duncan told the seven state Supreme Court justices that the case language makes clear the rights of individual states to define marriage. Baier argued that nothing in the Windsor case allows the denial of the constitutional right to marry.
Baier and Guillory said it is possible that the court could uphold Costanza’s right to adopt Brewer’s child without ruling on the constitutionality of the Louisiana gay marriage ban. Guillory told the justices that the pair meets the standards for adoption outlined in the Louisiana Children’s Code.