Same-sex marriage in Louisiana
|Legal status of same-sex unions|
* Not yet in effect, but automatic deadline set by judicial body for same-sex marriage to become legal
The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, held that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, invalidating the ban on same-sex marriage in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The ruling clarified conflicting court rulings on whether Louisianian officials are obligated to license same-sex marriages. Governor Bobby Jindal confirmed on June 28 that Louisiana would comply with the ruling once the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its decision in a Louisiana case, which the Fifth Circuit did on July 1. Jindal then said the state would not comply with the ruling until the federal District Court reversed its judgment, which it did on July 2. All parishes now issue marriage licenses in accordance with federal law.
Recognition of same-sex unions
Same-sex marriage is legal in Louisiana after the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Furthermore, the ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court in Costanza v. Caldwell made same-sex adoption along with same-sex marriage legal in Louisiana.
On September 18, 2004, by 78% to 22%, the voters of Louisiana approved a state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages and civil unions. The measure banned any other legal status "identical or substantially similar to that of marriage" which includes domestic partnerships (French: partenariat domestique).
In 1997, the city of New Orleans extended health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees, the first and only city in the state to do so. In 1999, the city created a domestic partner registry.
Costanza v. Caldwell
In July 2013, a state trial court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a lesbian couple who married in California, In Re Costanza and Brewer, who sought to have their marriage recognized in order to allow Constanza to adopt Brewer's biological child. The plaintiffs appealed that dismissal because they were not allowed to amend their complaint, and on February 5, 2014, 15th Judicial District Court Judge Edward Rubin ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and authorized the adoption in a separate action.
Costanza and Brewer merged their suit that challenged Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban and their adoption case into one action. They were represented by private counsel: Lafayette attorney and Iraqi veteran Joshua S. Guillory, and professor of law and playwright Paul Baier. On September 22, 2014, Judge Rubin found Louisiana's ban an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection, the Due Process, and the Full Faith and Credit clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
State officials asked him to stay his decision and announced plans to appeal directly to the Louisiana Supreme Court. He ordered the state to allow the plaintiffs to file a joint state income tax return and to allow their adoption to proceed. He enjoined the state from enforcing laws that "prohibit a person from marrying a person of the same sex". He stayed his ruling pending appeal, and the Attorney General appealed directly to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which heard oral argument on January 29, 2015.
On July 7, 2015, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, the Louisiana Supreme Court, by a 6-1 ruling, found the case moot and dismissed the state's appeal making the trial court's ruling in Costanza v. Caldwell final and binding in Louisiana regarding same-sex marriage.
Robicheaux v. George
In July 2013, a lawsuit brought in the Eastern District of Louisiana challenged the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. The plaintiffs were a same-sex couple married in Iowa in September 2012, later joined by a second couple; the case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman. The court dismissed the suit in November 2013 because it found that the only named defendant, the state Attorney General, had taken no specific action with respect to the plaintiffs' marriages.
On February 5, 2014, the Robicheaux plaintiffs, now joined by two women married in Iowa in 2013 and two men denied a marriage license in New Orleans in January 2014, refiled their suit, naming as principal defendant the state Director of Health, along with the Secretary of Revenue, with the case styled Robicheaux v. George. Forum For Equality, a Louisiana LGBT activist group, filed a separate suit on behalf of four couples on February 12, seeking recognition of same-sex marriages established in other jurisdictions. On March 18, Judge Feldman consolidated the two cases under the name Robicheaux v. Caldwell. Oral arguments on motions for summary judgment were held on June 25.
On September 3, Judge Feldman ruled for the defendants, writing that "Louisiana has a legitimate interest ... whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others ... in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents". He wrote that the idea of same-sex marriage was "nonexistent and even inconceivable until very recently". He described the issue as "a clash between convictions regarding the value of state decisions reached by way of the democratic process as contrasted with personal, genuine, and sincere lifestyle choices recognition." He found nothing in United States v. Windsor or previous Fifth Circuit decisions to require him to subject Louisiana's ban to "heightened scrutiny". He also ruled that "There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage." Under "rational basis review", he accepted the state's claim that its laws "serve a central state interest of linking children to an intact family formed by their biological parents" and further its interest in "safeguarding that fundamental social change ... is better cultivated through democratic consensus." He wrote:
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.
He characterized other federal court decisions invalidating state bans on same-sex marriage as "the volley of nationally orchestrated court rulings ... [that] thus far exemplify a pageant of empathy; decisions impelled by a response of innate pathos." He also asked what the impact of a decision for the plaintiffs might foretell:
[I]nconvenient questions persist. 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? .... This Court is powerless to be indifferent to the unknown and possibly imprudent consequences of such a decision.
All parties asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to set an expedited briefing schedule to allow an appeal to be heard alongside De Leon v. Perry. The Fifth Circuit granted that request on September 25. The Fifth Circuit heard oral argument on January 9, 2015, before Judges Patrick E. Higginbotham, Jerry E. Smith, and James E. Graves, Jr..
On November 20, the plaintiffs filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari before judgment, that is, to hear the case, now Robicheaux v. George, without waiting for a decision from the Fifth Circuit. The state supported that request on December 2. The Supreme Court denied that petition on January 12, 2015.
U.S. Supreme Court ruling
On June 26, 2015, following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, the plaintiffs asked the Fifth Circuit to immediately reverse the district court and have that court resolve the case in their favor. The same day, the Louisiana Attorney General said that nothing in that decision required the state to cease enforcing its same-sex marriage ban. On June 28, Governor Jindal said the state would comply with the Supreme Court decision as soon as the Fifth Circuit reverses the district court ruling in Robicheaux that upheld the state's ban. On July 1 the Fifth Circuit reversed its earlier ruling in Robicheaux and instructed the district court to record a judgment for the plaintiffs no later than July 17. Jindal then said the state would not recognize same-sex marriages until the district court reversed its ruling. In the district court, Judge Feldman issued a new judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on July 2.
Several parishes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 29, including Jefferson, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, West Feliciana, East Feliciana, Assumption, Livingston, Ascension and Tangipahoa. As of July 1, Orleans Parish refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The district court ordered the state to begin licensing same-sex marriages in the parish the next day, and the state complied. For sometime after the Obergefell ruling, however, several parishes refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, including Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Madison, Red River, St. Tammany and Webster. Those parishes have since been forced to issue licenses to all couples as of July 6, 2015.
Efforts to repeal unconstitutional ban
In March 2018, the Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee rejected a proposed bill to repeal the unconstitutional same-sex marriage ban. The bill would have also made changes throughout Louisiana statute law, replacing words such as "mother" and "father" with "parent". The vote was 4-1, with Representative Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) the sole lawmaker in favor. The Louisiana Family Forum opposed the bill, believing that the Supreme Court could, in the future, overrule itself. This, however, happens extremely rarely. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans), the bill's main sponsor, said: "This is the law of the land whether you like it or not." The Louisiana Law Institute also supported the bill.
|% support||% opposition||% no opinion/don't know|
|Public Religion Research Institute||April 5-December 23, 2017||983||?||48%||44%||8%|
|Public Religion Research Institute||May 18, 2016-January 10, 2017||1,410||?||44%||45%||11%|
|Public Religion Research Institute||April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016||1,170||?||41%||49%||10%|
|New York Times/CBS News/YouGov||September 20-October 1, 2014||2,187 likely voters||± 2.5%||39%||46%||15%|
|Public Policy Polling||June 26–29, 2014||664 registered voters||± 3.8%||32%||55%||13%|
|Public Policy Research Lab||February 4-February 24, 2014||1,095 respondents||± 3%||41.7%||52.7%||5.6%|
|Public Policy Polling||August 16–19, 2013||721 voters||± 3.7%||28%||63%||10%|
|Harper Polling||April 6–7, 2013||541 Likely Voters||± 4.21%||21%||60%||19%|
|Public Policy Research Lab||February 8-March 17, 2013||930 respondents||± 3.6%||39.3%||56.3%||4.4%|
|Public Policy Polling||February 8–12, 2013||603 voters||± 4%||29%||59%||12%|
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- Last clerk in Louisiana blocking same-sex marriage licenses has religious objection
- Louisiana Senate Committee rejects use of LGBT-friendly language in marriage laws