US: Federal court upholds four states’ same-sex marriage bans

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Four states have had their bans on same-sex marriage upheld, in a first in the legal battle to allow gay and lesbian couples across the US to marry.

Thursday’s decision, a 2-1 vote by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, could force the US Supreme Court to take up the issue of same-sex marriage.

The 6th Circuit’s ruling applies to the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. It undid rulings in favour of same-sex marriage in all four states.

Three of the other federal circuit courts in the US have already ruled in favour of same-sex marriage this year.

The US Supreme Court’s refusal to take up those cases meant same-sex couples were able to marry in eleven new states.

However the Supreme Court is now expected to take up the cases, as there is now a split in the circuit courts.

Federal judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in Thursday’s ruling that marriage decisions should be made politically, not ruled on by courts.

He wrote: “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

The ACLU condemned the decision, and announced that it would file immediately for the Supreme Court to review the ruling.

Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU said in a statement: “This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

“We believe it’s wholly unconstitutional to deny same sex couples and their families access to the rights and respect that all other families receive,” Strangio said.