Marriage Equality: Louisiana Gets Its Day in Court

Marriage Equality: Louisiana Gets Its Day in Court

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4950792252_8a384d04b6_louisiana“Across the country courts have struck down discriminatory bans denying marriage to same-sex couples as the flawed arguments supporting those bans have crumbled. Today was no different and we trust the Fifth Circuit will see through the desperate arguments the State put forth.”

The appeal was brought by Forum For Equality Louisiana and seven same-sex Louisiana couples represented by Lambda Legal and New Orleans Attorneys Dalton Courson, Lesli Harris, Scott Spivey and Richard Perque.

“We are very hopeful that wedding bells will be ringing soon for same-sex couples in Louisiana,” said Camilla B. Taylor, Counsel and National Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal who argued before the Fifth Circuit today. “Across the country courts have struck down discriminatory bans denying marriage to same-sex couples as the flawed arguments supporting those bans have crumbled. Today was no different and we trust the Fifth Circuit will see through the desperate arguments the State put forth.”

Robicheaux v. Caldwell was one of three marriage cases argued Friday before the Fifth Circuit. The other cases are DeLeon v. Perry, a Texas case brought by private counsel from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, a Mississippi case brought by private counsel from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and McDuff & Byrd. The Texas and Mississippi appeals were filed by public officials in both states after two U.S. District Courts struck down those states’ marriage bans. Robicheaux, however, is an appeal of a rare U.S. District Court ruling upholding a discriminatory ban.

“The lower court got it wrong and stands almost alone against the avalanche of recent rulings that have concluded these discriminatory marriage bans violate the Constitution,” Taylor added. “This past fall, the Supreme Court declined to review appellate court victories for same-sex couples in seven marriage cases out of the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits striking down five bans similar to Louisiana’s. A day later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down bans in Nevada and Idaho. In fact, until the aberrant Sixth Circuit ruling in November upholding marriage bans in four states currently on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, there were 46 decisions in federal and state courts in a little more than a year holding that banning lesbian and gay couples from marrying violates the Constitution. One struggles to understand how this judge came to a different conclusion.”

SarahJane Brady, Executive Director of Forum for Equality Louisiana, said, “Louisianans have waited long enough for equal marriage rights. We trust that the Fifth Circuit panel will see the oppressive lower court ruling for what it was: an aberration that must be overturned to provide dignity for all this state’s citizens.”

Robicheaux v. Caldwell is the consolidated appeal of U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman’s combined decision in three lawsuits filed in the past year: Robicheaux v. CaldwellRobicheaux v. George and Forum For Equality Louisiana, Inc. v. Barfield. Judge Feldman issued his ruling upholding Louisiana’s discriminatory ban in early September. Lambda Legal joined the legal team in early October.

The plaintiffs in the combined appeal are:

  • Jonathan Robicheaux and Derek Penton of New Orleans, together since 2005 and married in Iowa in 2012; and Courtney and Nadine Blanchard of Lafourche Parish, married in Iowa in 2013 and raising a son together (represented by New Orleans attorney Richard G. Perque);
  • Robert Welles and Garth Beauregard of New Orleans, together for 24 years (represented by New Orleans attorney Scott J. Spivey of Landry & Spivey);
  • Forum for Equality Louisiana, the LGBT advocacy organization founded in 1989: Jacqueline and Lauren Brettner of New Orleans, together since 2011, married in New York in 2012 and the parents of a baby girl born in 2013; Henry Lambert and Carey Bond of New Orleans, together since 1974 and married in New York in 2011; Andrew Bond and Nicholas Van Sickels of New Orleans, together since 2003, married in the District of Columbia in 2013 and the parents of a daughter; and L. Havard Scott III and Sergio March Prieto of Shreveport, together since 1997 and married in Vermont in 2010 (represented by J. Dalton Courson, Lesli D. Harris, John Landis, Brooke Tigchelaar and Maurine Wall of the New Orleans firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann LLC).

The legal team also includes, from Lambda Legal: Kenneth Upton, Susan Sommer, Camilla Taylor, Karen Loewy, Paul Castillo and Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, as co-counsel with J. Dalton Courson and Lesli D. Harris and their team at Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann LLC; Scott J. Spivey of Landry & Spivey; and Richard G. Perque.

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