The fight for marriage equality took a hit in the state of Louisiana on Wednesday. According to a report by the Associated Press, a federal judge upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, as well as the state’s refusal to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states. The ruling broke a string of victories in favor of gay marriage throughout the nation over the last few months.
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled in favor of the state on the ground that gay marriage supporters failed to prove to him that the ban currently violates equal protection or due process provisions of the Constitution. The also rejected an argument that the ban violated the Fist Amendment by forcing legally married gay couples to file Louisiana income tax returns under the status of single.
Unlike other federal judges in states where bans were overturned, Feldman stated in his ruling that states have the right to define the institution of marriage. He wrote, “Although opinions about same-sex marriage will understandably vary among the states, and other states in free and open debate will and have chosen differently, that does not mandate that Louisiana has overstepped its sovereign authority."
Both sides in the case supported their arguments by pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act ruling. Attorneys for same-sex couples used the ruling to argue that the state’s failure to recognize legal marriages from other states is a violation of the constitutional due process and equal-protection rights. The state argues that the opinion upheld the rights of state voters and legislatures to define marriage.
Feldman sided with the state in the case creating a tougher fight for same-sex marriage supporters in the state. Forum for Equality Louisiana is planning to appeal the ruling. Mary Griggs, chairwoman of the group, said, “Every citizen of the United States deserves protection of their rights, uphill climb or not.”