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Federal Judge Upholds Louisiana Marriage

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The tide shifted this week in the legal battle over marriage when a judge issued the first federal court ruling in over a year that upholds a state Marriage Protection Amendment as constitutional. In a 32-page decision issued on September 3, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldblum upheld the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Marriage Amendment, which states that marriage in Louisiana “shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” In his opinion, Judge Feldblum concluded, “There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage,” and that “Louisiana has a legitimate interest under a rational basis standard of review for addressing the meaning of marriage through the democratic process.”

The ruling in Louisiana ends a year-long streak of legal victories in federal courts for same-sex “marriage” proponents, which began in June 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Courts struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in its landmark United States v. Windsor decision. Since the Windsor ruling, nearly 40 state and federal courts have ruled against state marriage protection laws. While the majority of courts have used Windsor as justification for striking down these laws, Judge Feldblum actually cited Windsor in his decision to uphold Louisiana’s law. “Windsor repeatedly and emphatically reaffirmed the longstanding principle that the authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations belongs to the states, subject to indistinct future constitutional guarantees that in Windsor were, by its expressed limits, left open and rather inexact,” he wrote.

Judge Feldblum’s decision contains many powerful truths about the purpose of marriage, the importance of the current democratic debate over marriage, and the authority of states to define marriage. Following are a few key quotes:

  • State Marriage Protection Laws are NOT “irrational” but rather serve a legitimate public purpose. In response to the argument from same-sex “marriage” proponents (and some courts) that there is “no rational basis” for state marriage protection laws, Judge Feldblum wrote: “Louisiana’s laws and Constitution are directly related to achieving marriage’s historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents. Louisiana’s regime pays respect to the democratic process; to vigorous debate… The Court is persuaded that a meaning of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today, is not universally irrational on the constitutional grid.”
  • There is no fundamental “right” to same-sex “marriage.” While acknowledging that a number of “states have democratically chosen to recognize same-sex marriage,” Judge Feldblum noted that, “until recent years, it had no place at all in this nation’s history and tradition.” He concluded that, “Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage.”
  • Courts should consider the consequences of redefining marriage. “When a federal court is obliged to confront a constitutional struggle over what is marriage, a singularly pivotal issue, the consequence of outcomes, intended or otherwise, seems an equally compelling part of the equation,” he wrote, raising the following “inconvenient” questions that he said the plaintiffs in the Louisiana case were unable to answer: “For example, must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs.”
  • Courts should not force marriage redefinition on the people. Judge Feldblum concluded that the debate over marriage should be left to the states. “[I]t is not for this Court to resolve the wisdom of same-sex marriage,” he wrote. “The nation is witness to a strong conversation about what is marriage. The central question that must first be asked, is what is the fairest forum for the answer? A new right may or may not be affirmed by the democratic process.”

Although Judge Feldblum is the first federal judge to uphold a state marriage protection law since the Supreme Court’s Windsor ruling, a state judge recently upheld Tennessee’s right to protect marriage through a constitutional amendment and also cited Windsor for support. Ultimately, both the Louisiana and Tennessee rulings prove that the redefinition of marriage is not inevitable, despite the claims of same-sex “marriage” proponents. Both rulings should help move the legal battle over marriage closer to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has been asked to review challenges involving state marriage protection laws in Utah and Virginia.

As the legal battle over marriage continues, our prayer should be that the Supreme Court will uphold the principle affirmed in Windsor that states have the authority to define marriage, and will leave the marriage protection laws of every state, including North Carolina, intact.

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