Lower court gay marriage ruling may force issue to Supreme Court

Posted Nov 7, 2014 by Nate Smith
A federal appeals court decision to uphold same-sex marriage bans in four U.S. states has opened the door for the issue of gay marriage to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Gay and straight marriages show similar longevity
Gay and straight marriages show similar longevity
A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals serving Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee in a 2-1 ruling Thursday reversed lower court decisions that had struck down gay marriage laws in those states.
Writing the majority opinion was Jeffrey S. Sutton who seemed to acknowledge the inevitably of legal same-sex unions, even as he ruled in favor of the rights of citizens in those states to vote in laws as they saw fit.
"This is a case about change — and how best to handle it under the United States Constitution," writes the President George W. Bush appointee.
He goes on: From the vantage point of 2014, it would now seem, the question is not whether American law will allow gay couples to marry; it is when and how that will happen.
Of all the ways to resolve this question, one option is not available: a poll of the three
judges on this panel, or for that matter all federal judges, about whether gay marriage is a good idea.
The appeals court did not, Judge Sutton wrote, have "sweeping authority" to, "to make such a vital policy call," for the over 30 million people that reside within the court's jurisdiction.
In all, 16 listed same-sex couples seek protection under the 14th Amendment to have their relationship recognized by the state.
Details vary, some of the questions at hand involve birth and death rights and visitation, or issues of property and insurance, but Judge Sutton, along with Judge Deborah L. Cook conclude it's not the judiciary's role to decide social issues, particularly laws instituted by popular vote based on previously longstanding social norms.
For better, for worse, or for more of the same, marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world, reads the majority opinion.
Court watchers believe the opinion paves the way for the issue to be decided by the Supreme Court once and for all, and this latest ruling to reverse previous court decisions on same-sex marriage bans may be enough to convince justices to take up the issue.
Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey penned a sharp rebuke of Judge Sutton's decision, calling it a, "a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism." Appointed by President Bill Clinton, the judge went on to accuse her peer of considering the plaintiffs not as "real people," but instead as, "mere abstractions."
Thursday's ruling is also the first circuit decision to uphold a same-sex marriage ban since the high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.