Louisiana judge rules state marriage ban 'unconstitutional'

Earlier this month in a separate ruling, a federal judge upheld the same ban.

Gerald Herbert/AP
Bill Nelson, left, and Stan Grant, listen to speakers during a rally in reaction to a Sept. 3 decision by a federal judge which upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriages, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Sept. 3. A state judge ruled Monday that the Louisiana ban is unconstitutional.

A Louisiana state judge ruled on Monday in favor of a same-sex couple, saying the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, advocates said.

The ruling compels the state to recognize the out-of-state marriage of the plaintiffs in the case but its full extent is not immediately clear because it is temporarily under seal, said Bruce Parker, a spokesman for Equality Louisiana.

"This judgment of the court is a sign of hope amid the maelstrom of despair and confusion that Louisiana's LGBT community has lived through recently," C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance and a Monroe-based pastor, said in a statement.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell plans to appeal the decision directly to the state's Supreme Court, the Times-Picayune newspaper reported. His office did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The ruling comes as the US Supreme Court is expected to take up the question of gay marriage bans during its next term, which starts in October, in what is likely to be the most momentous civil rights case in years.

Earlier this month, a federal judge upheld Louisiana's ban saying 'Federalism is not extinct,' breaking a string of more than 20 US judges who have declared such bans unconstitutional in recent months, the Monitor's Warren Richey reported.

US District Judge Martin Feldman was unapologetic in upholding a Louisiana constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He also ruled that Louisiana was not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

“It would no doubt be celebrated to be in the company of the near-unanimity of the many other federal courts to have spoken to this pressing issue, if this court were confident in the belief that those cases provide a correct guide,” he wrote in a 32-page opinion.

Judge Feldman criticized what he said was a “volley of nationally orchestrated court rulings” by judges who “appear to have assumed the mantle of a legislative body.”

Instead of reaching out to decide policy issues, the courts should allow the thorny debate over same-sex marriage to play out among voters and state lawmakers, the judge said.

Nineteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

Monday's Louisiana case was brought by a lesbian couple seeking to have their California marriage recognized and for the legal adoption of the son they have raised together, Parker said.

The ruling is under seal because of privacy rules governing adoption cases but is expected to be made public on Tuesday with the plaintiffs' consent, Parker said.

An attorney for the plaintiffs did not immediately return messages seeking comment. 

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