Finally, reasoning heads have prevailed when the full federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that other states’ laws do not have to alter Louisiana’s Constitution in an area where states have full autonomy to exercise power.
The court overturned earlier rulings by a district court and a three-judge panel of its to declare that Louisiana did not have to issue a birth certificate with the names of two males for a Louisiana child they adopted. In other states that permit adoption by a couple of the same sex they had adopted this child, and also benefitted from a same-sex marriage. Then they asked that both of their names be placed upon the Louisiana-issued certificate.
But Louisiana law says that adoption may occur only to a family of a single individual or of a married couple. Further, the Louisiana Constitution defines marriage as occurring between a single man and a single woman. Thus, only one name could be put on the certificate because Louisiana did not have to recognize the “marriage,” backed also by the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The men sued, arguing violations that created legal hardship on them otherwise.
Despite the dubiousness of that claim – a power of attorney arrangement could have solved any and all such problems – previous decisions had gone their way, with the last involving jackknifing a case not entirely similar to this one into justifying it. Louisiana could have helped itself out by passing a law to clarify that certificates may be issued only in conformity to the Constitution, but the entire Fifth Circuit in essence held that such clarification was unnecessary for that intent to be realized.
The Court ruled that neither a full faith and credit nor equal protection claim violation could be sustained. Regarding the former, the majority demonstrated a clear jurisprudential history showing that the clause affected adjudicatory decisions, not procedures regarding enforcement. Concerning the latter, the majority recognized that the state has a rational, nondiscriminatory interest in conferring different privileges on married and unmarried couples as it defines them. Dissenters argued there needed to be an expanded, if unprecedented, meaning of the full faith and credit clause and wanted to bring back in the dissimilar case on which the previous ruling had relied, and said, even as it acknowledged the power of the Court to do so, that in regarding the equal protection clause it should not have ruled on that as it was newly introduced to the case.
The decision may be appealed although a superficial reading of the U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisprudence of its justices indicates it would agree with the Fifth Circuit’s majority. That aside, the decision blocks an attempt by special interests to try to manufacture a same-sex marriage right universally across all states, regardless of the fact that states constitutionally define marriage. In essence, by the logic of the plaintiffs, if one state defines marriage as occurring between people of the same sex (or among three people, involving non-humans, minors, etc.), all must accept that definition at least for some activities where a married state makes a difference. From there, their supporters hoped to use similar judicial activism and overreach to define away any state ability to prevent same-sex marriage recognition.
However, for now this outcome stops that campaign in its tracks. And Louisiana citizens should take pride in that the state, through Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office, made the effort to preserve the ability of all states to exercise their autonomous powers as granted through the U.S. Constitution. At the same time, they should scorn the plaintiffs and the interests backing them, who chose to use a child to pursue a political agenda and that put the state in the position where it would have to use taxpayer dollars to reaffirm the obvious. It’s always a good day for the people when the rule of law and constitutionality triumph.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 08:35