Lambda Legal, ACLU take gay marriage case straight to SCOTUS

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and Lambda Legal today filed a petition with the the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling upholding a ban on same-sex marriage.

The Sixth Court of Appeals’ ruling upheld gay marriage bans Nov. 6 in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

The Sixth Circuit is the only federal court since the 2013 Windsor ruling striking down a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act to uphold bans on same-sex marriage. Recent decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have led to legal marriages for same-sex couples in more than 30 states.

“It’s profoundly unfair for Ohio to tell these couples that their lawful marriages meant nothing and that their spouses are legal strangers. When you’re married, you’re married, no matter whether you travel or move to another state,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project, in a statement. “The country needs a uniform rule on respect for marriage, and the Supreme Court can and should make that happen.”

The nation has reached a “tipping point” when it comes to same-sex marriage and it is time for the Supreme Court to step in, said a representative from Lambda Legal.

“We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling shines a spotlight on our divided country, where married same-sex couples are either respected or discriminated against, depending on where they live or even where they travel,” said Susan Sommer, director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, in a statement.

“As we have learned from other historic cases like Loving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas, there comes a time when the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in, and provides the answer—on the question of marriage for same-sex couples we believe that time has come,” Sommer added.

ACLU and Lambda Legal’s filing of its motion comes on the heels of Republican Ohio Supreme Court Paul E. Pfeifer telling the Columbia Dispatch newspaper that he has a lesbian daughter.

“I’m not working to lead any movement, nor are they, but it’s time for Ohio to step up and put us on a footing that is not hostile,” he said.

Pfeifer is the third prominent Republican to come out publicly and speak about his gay child. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and Jim Petro, a former Ohio attorney general, have also said they have gay children.

Lambda Legal is also representing Georgia plaintiffs in a federal suit here to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Georgia’s District Attorney Sam Olens has filed motions with the court to have the case dismissed but no court action has been taken yet.