Marriage equality opponents won’t get momentum with Louisiana victory
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Louisiana upheld that state’s anti-marriage equality law, thereby breaking the lgbt community’s streak of successes in the courts when it comes to marriage equality cases after the SCOTUS’s Windor ruling.
However, other than having to deal with the gloating and overreaction of anti-gay groups and spokespeople, I don’t necessarily see this ruling as a bad thing for two reasons.
1. No new rationale against marriage equality – The thing more nauseating than the ruling is the rationale U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman used to rule for the state of Louisiana. His ruling reads like anti-gay talking points from the National Organization for Marriage.
His choice of words to describe lgbt couples and use of the slippery slope argument caught many people’s attention. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress said:
At one point, he describes being gay as one of several “lifestyle choices” a person can make. At another point in his opinion, he compares same-sex marriage to marriage between “aunt and niece,” “aunt and nephew,” or “father and child.” He also likens marriage equality to polygamous marriages.
David Ferguson [TRex] of Raw Story goes into detail about Feldman’s use of the slippery slope argument:
“For example,” he wrote, “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? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs.”
No, argued Feldman, the prevailing definition of marriage has been good for millennia and therefore is good enough for the Court.
He also said the following about the purpose of marriage, according to Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed:
Feldman concluded first that no “fundamental right” was at stake — “Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental” — and that laws that distinguish based on sexual orientation are not subjected to heightened scrutiny. As such, only the lowest level of scrutiny — rational basis review — applied to the ban, meaning the state needed only to show a legitimate reason for barring same-sex couples from marrying.
With that, he examined the reasons the state gave for the ban and concluded that they “offer a credible, and convincing, rational basis” for the ban.
Specifically, Feldman wrote:
This Court is persuaded 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, as specifically underscored by Justice Kennedy in Windsor.
And according to Ferguson, he made light of the other rulings before him, i.e. those ruling favor of marriage equality:
“The federal court decisions thus far exemplify a pageant of empathy; decisions impelled by a response of innate pathos.”
So what does this mean? Basically the anti-gay industry lucked out and found one judge who, for whatever reason, actually bought into their ridiculous arguments against marriage equality. But after the consistent rejections by other courts, this ruling says more about Feldman’s personal beliefs than it does about the argument over marriage equality, particularly when one takes into account the language and rationale he used.
2. This victory does not give the other side momentum – No doubt anti-gay groups and their spokespeople will gloat in press releases and interviews about how this proves marriage equality isn’t inevitable. However, no matter which way the ruling went, we all know this won’t be finally decided by any court except for SCOTUS. And in terms of that, anti-gay groups may claim that they have momentum, but don’t be fooled. We still have a long way to go and based on other court deliberations, those against marriage equality will probably have a lot more losses than successes before we get there. And as today’s ruling shows, they have no new arguments against marriage equality.
Having said that, I think that today’s ruling should also serve as a stark reminder for the lgbt community. Let’s not be so quick to celebrate before the battle is over. No matter how many folks do say that our right to marry is inevitable, the battle is never over until its over. And until that time, we shouldn’t be slacking off in telling our stories and doing what we can to make marriage equality a reality.