News

U.S. appeals court takes up gay marriage cases from 4 states

U.S. appeals court takes up gay marriage cases from 4 states

APPEALS: Mike Woods, 28, and Brandon Parsons, 30, embrace on the Pennsylvania State Capital steps following a rally with gay rights supporters after a ruling struck down a ban on same sex marriage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on May 20. Photo: Reuters

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The national battle over same-sex marriage will resume on Wednesday when a federal appeals court in Cincinnati convenes a special three-hour hearing to consider cases that have worked their way up from lower courts in four different states.

In all of the six cases to be heard, lower court judges have sided with gay rights advocates either by striking down state bans on gay marriage, or by requiring state governments to recognize gay marriages from states where they are legal.

Federal appeals courts play a crucial role in flagging legal issues for potential U.S. Supreme Court review. So all eyes will be on whether or not the Cincinnati court concurs with other courts that have backed gay marriage in the past year.

“The courts that have ruled so far have created a judicial consensus that is striking and almost unprecedented on a civil rights issue,” said James Esseks, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which backs gay marriage.

Gay marriage opponents do not dispute that, but point out that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue.

“Everybody knows that regardless of what a particular court rules, this will eventually end up at the Supreme Court,” said Austin Nimocks, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group that objects to same-sex marriage.

Cincinnati’s 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals specifically will have to decide whether to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Michigan and Kentucky, both of which were approved by voters in 2004. In four other cases, the court will weigh whether Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky should be ordered to recognize gay marriages that take place in states where they are legal.

Legal experts expect one or more gay marriage case to be taken up by the Supreme Court in the term that begins this October and runs until June 2015.

The Cincinnati-based court is the third federal appeals court to take up gay marriage since June 2013. That was when the Supreme Court, ruling in United States v. Windsor, struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and extended spousal benefits available under federal law to same-sex married couples.

The Windsor decision sparked a new wave of litigation, with more than 20 federal and state courts subsequently ruling against same-sex marriage bans.

At the appeals court level, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in recent months invalidated bans in Utah and Oklahoma, while the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban in July.

The three judges hearing the cases in Cincinnati are Jeffrey Sutton and Deborah Cook, both appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, and Martha Craig Daughtrey, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Lawyers on both sides will pay close attention to Sutton, who is seen as a star among conservative lawyers and could be the deciding vote.

Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, additional reporting by Joan Biskupic; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tom Brown)

Recent Headlines

10 hours ago in Viral Videos

Who’s your daddy?

16-overlay-10

When you're a baby and your dad is a twin, life can be confusing.

12 hours ago in Entertainment

Johnny Depp wigs out as Donald Trump in spoof biopic

16-overlay-11

The Hollywood actor dons a Trump-style hairpiece to lampoon the presidential hopeful in the 50-minute comedy for Funny or Die alongside a star-studded cast including Alfred Molina, Henry Winkle

12 hours ago in Entertainment

Another ‘Harry Potter’ book in the works

harrypotter

Fans will have the chance to read another installment in J.K. Rowling's wizard series when her new play is published as a book.

13 hours ago in Viral Videos

WATCH: Oh mother …

23-overlay-3

Is it the worst "Family Feud" answer ever? Judge for yourself.

15 hours ago in Entertainment, National

Shkreli is sued over his $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album

Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, during the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on his former company's decision to raise the price of a lifesaving medicine. Shkreli refused to testify before U.S. lawmakers who excoriated him over severe hikes for a drug sold by a company that he acquired. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Shkreli has bragged that he had no plans to listen to the album, but bought it to "keep it from the people."