Federal appeals court: 4 states can ban same-sex marriage

Social issues like same-sex marriage should be resolved "through the customary political process," a federal appellate court said.

By Frances Burns
Protesters rally against same-sex marriage on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (File/UPI/Kevin Dietsch)
Protesters rally against same-sex marriage on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (File/UPI/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo

CINCINNATI, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- A divided federal appeals panel in Cincinnati became the first in the country Thursday to uphold bans on same-sex marriage.

The 6th Circuit court ruled 2-1 that the decision should be made by voters or legislators in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Four other federal appellate courts have struck down laws or constitutional amendments that barred same-sex couples from marriage in at least seven states..


"When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers," Judge Jeffrey Sutton said. "Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way."

Since the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled unconstitutional the portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, advocates for same-sex marriage have challenged bans across the country, winning in court after court. The Supreme Court declined earlier this year to hear appeals of those rulings, but the 6th Circuit decision means the high court will have to step in.


The ruling echoed arguments made by Ohio's state solicitor, Eric Murphy, and lawyers for the other three states. Murphy said voters approved the ban on same-sex marriage in 2004 and they should be the ones to end it -- if they wish.

"A victory that comes through the political process is the truer victory," Murphy said during oral argument.

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