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The wheel on same-gender marriages keeps rolling

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The US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is hearing several cases on Aug. 6, 2104 on same-gender marriage. The rulings will affect same-gender marriages in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan. The Sixth Circuit is made up of two conservative George W. Bush appointed judges, Deborah L. Cook and Jeffrey S. Sutton, and a more liberal Bill Clinton appointee, Senior Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daugherty.

Sutton is considered to be conservative, but he upheld the Affordable Care Act in a case before the Sixth Circuit. He will likely be the swing vote in upholding or denying the bans against same-gender marriages. If the Sixth Circuit rules to uphold the current bans on same-gender marriage, this will create a conflict with other federal courts that will likely then go to the Supreme Court for resolution.

The Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) ruled in US v Windsor that federal laws and regulations must legally recognize same-gender marriages, which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that had been passed by Congress. SCOTUS failed to rule that same-gender marriages had to be recognized by all states, which has led to lower federal courts ruling that state laws are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black ruled on April 14, 2014 in the case of Henry v. Himes, 14-cv-00129, that Ohio must recognize same-gender marriages performed in other states where these marriages are legal. Judge Black had ruled previously that same-gender marriages must be recognized on death certificates issued in Ohio. Black stayed his rulings pending the review by the 6th Circuit Court.

The legality of same-gender marriages could have been resolved in US v Windsor if SCOTUS judges had followed the precedent of the 1967 Loving v Virginia ruling overturning restrictions on interracial marriages. A US 4th Circuit of Appeals, which covers Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-gender marriages is unconstitutional on July 28, 2014 based upon the 14th amendment clause of equal protection.

If the Sixth Circuit judges rule that the same-gender restrictions are unconstitutional, this will follow the decisions of many recent federal rulings. If the judges rule to uphold the restrictions in some or all of the cases from the four states, an immediate appeal can be expected at the Supreme Court level.

The majority of people in the U.S. now support same-gender marriages. This is a dramatic change in public opinion from a few years ago. If SCOTUS is forced by public pressure and lower court decisions, they will have to take the issue. Given the highly divisive nature of today’s Supreme Court, rationality in support of same-gender marriage may be overturned by the religious and conservative views of several members of SCOTUS.

In a previous era, DOMA was passed by Congress to declare marriage as only valid if between one man and one woman. SCOTUS has now declared DOMA to be unconstitutional. It would seem logically impossible for SCOTUS to rule that states can ban what the federal government cannot, but SCOTUS is divided by major ideological challenges.

You can read the details of the cases before the 6th Circuit Court from Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan in an article from the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer. The Summary of gay marriage cases before appeals court was published on Aug. 6, 2014. Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati, Ed White in Detroit, Lucas L. Johnson II in Nashville, Tennessee, and Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

We should be near the decision by SCOTUS to put same-gender marriages in the same category as interracial marriages. Marriage should be a personal matter that is outside of government restrictions at all levels. That will be a further step in the equality of all citizens, and an affirmation that marriage decisions cannot be limited by government at any level.

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