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U.S. 6th Circuit prepares to hear six same-sex marriage cases

By Greta McClain     Aug 2, 2014 in World
Cincinnati - The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is poised to make history next week, becoming the first federal court to hear six marriage equality cases in a single day.
On Wednesday, federal Judges Martha Craig Daughtrey, Jeffrey S. Sutton, and Deborah L. Cook will begin hearing oral arguments challenging the validity of same-sex marriage bans in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. It will mark the fourth time federal circuit courts have heard such arguments since the June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court U.S. v. Windsor ruling struck down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Tennessee case, which was filed in October of last year, involves four same-sex couples who were legally married in other states. It challenges the 2006 Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment which prohibits the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the amendment violates the federal Constitution by denying equal protection and due process, and violates the right to travel between, and move to, other states constitutionally protected in the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In February, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled the commonwealth of Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. Although Kentucky's Attorney General Jack Conway refused to file an appeal, Gov. Steve Beshear announced he would hire outside counsel to appeal the ruling. In a statement Beshear said the appeal and a request for a stay was needed to avoid "legal chaos". He went on to say:
"I understand and respect the deep and strong emotions and sincere beliefs of Kentuckians on both sides of this issue, but all Kentuckians deserve an orderly process that will bring certainty and finality to this important matter.”
The appeal process has led to two Kentucky cases being scheduled to be heard by the 6th Circuit. The first case, Bourke v. Beshear, also involves four couples who were married in other states. As with the Tennessee case, the lawsuit argues that Kentucky's ban on the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states violates the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process. The second case, Love v. Beshear, argues that the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages violates the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The Michigan case began in 2012 when April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, parents of three children, feared the children would not be protected if the legal parent were to die. The suit initially challenged Michigan's ban on second parent adoptions, however it was later amended to also challenge the state's ban on same sex marriages.
Two cases from Ohio will also be heard. Like the Tennessee and Kentucky cases, the first case argues that the state's ban on recognition of same-sex marriages violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. James Obergefell is a plaintiff in the case. His husband, John Arthur, passed away in October 2013. Obergefell told Cincinnati.com:
"Although our case was limited in scope, we hoped it would be the first chink in the wall of marriage inequality. Every ruling has been bittersweet for me; equality continues to win against discrimination, but John isn't here to celebrate with me.
Amidst all the claims that my marriage is a threat to tradition and the very fabric of our society, I look forward to the court upholding the un-changing American traditions that really matter – equality and fair treatment under the law."
In the second Ohio case, the plaintiffs are suing for the right to legally marry in Ohio.
Earlier this year, three similar cases involving plaintiffs in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia were heard by the 10th and 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 10th Circuit Court ruled that same-sex couples in Utah and Oklahoma have the right to marry. The 4th Circuit court ruled the same in the Virginia case.
More about Gay rights, Samesex marriage, Marriage equality, Court case, 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
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