The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday finding that the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges overrides the 2004 state constitutional amendment in Louisiana limiting marriage to couples of one man and one woman.
The federal appeals court directed the district courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to issue final orders ending enforcement of the states’ respective bans on same-sex couples’ marriages.
The Louisiana 5th Circuit opinion reads:
Obergefell, in both its Fourteenth and First Amendment iterations, is the law of the land and, consequently, the law of this circuit1 and should not be taken lightly by actors within the jurisdiction of this court. We express no view on how controversies involving the intersection of these rights should be resolved but instead leave that to the robust operation of our system of laws and the good faith of those who are impacted by them.
This court sought and promptly received letter advisories from plaintiffs and the state, asking their respective positions on the proper disposition in light of Obergefell. They are agreed that the judgment should be reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of plaintiffs. Because this court agrees that that is the required result, the judgment appealed from is REVERSED, and this matter is REMANDED for entry of judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. The district court must act expeditiously on remand, especially in view of the declining health of plaintiff Robert Welles.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has said a ruling by the 5th Circuit would require officials across the state to begin extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. The 5th Circuit ruling sends the case back to U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, with an order for Feldman to reverse his ruling from last year, which dismissed a lawsuit brought by seven same-sex couples.
The order says Feldman should act by July 17, or sooner, noting that one of the plaintiffs in the case, Robert Welles, is in declining health and has been unable to get a marriage license in his home parish in New Orleans.
Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner reports:
In the Texas case, in which the trial court had struck down the ban, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion by Judge Jerry E. Smith, wrote that “the injunction appealed from is correct in light of Obergefell, the preliminary injunction is AFFIRMED.”
In the Louisiana case, in which the trial court had upheld the ban, the appeals court, in a second opinion by Judge Smith, wrote that “the judgment appealed from is REVERSED, and this matter is REMANDED for entry of judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.” Notably, Smith added: “The district court must act expeditiously on remand, especially in view of the declining health of plaintiff Robert Welles,” a plaintiff in the case.
In the Mississippi case, the court issued a similar opinion, stating that “the injunction appealed from is correct in light of Obergefell” and, therefore, “the preliminary injunction is AFFIRMED.” The Mississippi opinion came last, likely a result of the fact that Gov. Phil Bryant initially had opposed the plaintiffs’ motion to put a quick end to the case after the June 26 Supreme Court ruling striking down marriage bans.