BREAKING: Louisiana Defense Of Marriage Amendment Upheld In Federal District Court

A federal court in New Orleans issued a landmark decision on Wednesday upholding Louisiana’s constitutional right to maintain its traditional definition of marriage.  Judge Martin L.C. Feldman ruled in Robicheaux, et al v. Caldwell, et al, that “[t]he State of Louisiana has a legitimate interest under a rational basis standard of review for addressing the meaning of marriage through the democratic process.” The opinion upholds Louisiana’s Defense of Marriage Constitutional Amendment (Art. XII, Sec. 15), which was adopted by a statewide vote of 78% in 2004.

Wednesday’s decision from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana is significant as it is the first federal court victory for traditional marriage in more than a year.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last June in Windsor v. U.S., at least 40 consecutive lower courts have issued rulings that same-sex marriage must be imposed on the various states.

Attorneys representing Louisiana in Robicheaux applauded the ruling, and vowed to continue the state’s vigorous defense if the case is appealed.  “The decision today is precisely correct,” said Mike Johnson, a Bossier City attorney hired by the state to help defend its law.  “The Court has merely affirmed that it is the people of each state who have the authority to define and regulate marriage within their borders—rather than a handful of unelected federal judges.  We believe the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately uphold this important principle.”

Johnson, who also helped argue and win the case upholding the state’s marriage amendment against its first legal challenge at the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2004, is confident the federal appeals courts will agree with Friday’s ruling.  “This is not a case that should be decided based upon emotion, but solely upon the rule of law and a straightforward interpretation of the Constitution,” he said.  “And the Constitution clearly leaves the definition and regulation of marriage to each state.”

Judge Feldman’s opinion states, “[t]he Court finds that Louisiana’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and the limitation on recognition of same-sex marriages permitted by law in other states found in Article XII, Section 15 of the Louisiana Constitution and article 3520(B) of the Louisiana Civil Code do not infringe the guarantees of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution.”

An appeal by the plaintiffs to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is anticipated, as well as a great amount of national attention by advocates on both sides of the issue.

As many as 78 cases in 32 states have been filed by plaintiffs in the past year arguing that state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman violate the federal constitution.  So far, Wednesday’s ruling in Robicheaux is the only one to affirm that the matter should be decided by the democratic process, rather than by judicial fiat.

A copy of the court’s historic opinion can be accessed here.

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