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Sixth Circuit Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In October, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear arguments regarding same-sex marriage, but now it seems they may not have a choice. Despite district court rulings to the contrary, the Sixth Circuit decided 2–1 to uphold same-sex marriage bans in each of the four affected states (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee). The challenges levied in Michigan and Kentucky concerned state amendments barring same-sex marriage, while couples in Ohio and Tennessee concerned themselves with earning statewide recognition for legal marriages performed elsewhere. and Michigan challenged state amendments barring same-sex marriage. Couples from Ohio and Tennessee asked the lower courts to require their states to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

In his majority opinion, Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote:

“A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.  Hesitant, yes; but still a rational basis, some rational basis, must exist for the definition.”


“There are many ways, as [the] lower court decisions confirm, to look at this question: originalism; rational basis review; animus; fundamental rights; suspect classifications; evolving meaning.  The parties in one way or another have invoked them all.  Not one of the plaintiffs’ theories, however, makes the case for constitutionalizing the definition of marriage and for removing the issue from the place it has been since the founding: in the hands of state voters.”

Same-sex marriage is, and will continue to be a passion-inspiring topic for those on both sides of the political spectrum, but for the same-sex couples fighting for the right that so many heterosexual couples take for granted, this Sixth Circuit ruling is so much more than dinnertime debate fodder. To date, petitions have been filed by such couples in Ohio and in Tennessee, claiming that the federal appeals court’s ruling was “riddled with flaws” and questioning “whether the ban on recognition violates married couples’ right to travel between the states.”

“By disrespecting their marriages, Ohio has done more than deny petitioners basic legal rights to which they are entitled,” one petition reads. “It has treated Petitioners as second-class citizens whose most intimate relationships have been denied the dignity and respect they deserve.”

In October, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear arguments regarding same-sex marriage, but even Ruth Bader Ginsburg must now admit “some urgency in the court taking the case.”


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