Lambda Legal Urges Courts to Lift Marriage Bans in Louisiana, North Dakota and Puerto Rico

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June 26, 2015
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Lambda Legal called on three courts to act immediately to strike down bans on marriage for same-sex couples in North Dakota, Louisiana and Puerto Rico in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling declaring marriage bans across the country unconstitutional. Lambda Legal is litigating marriage cases in those jurisdictions which have been pending during the Supreme Court’s consideration.

“The Supreme Court has spoken: Bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional,” Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Kenneth C. Upton said. “There remains no justification for courts in North Dakota, Louisiana, Puerto Rico or, in fact, anywhere to stand in the way of love. Courageous couples in these jurisdictions stood up for the freedom to marry, for marital respect, and for equal dignity. They should not be forced to wait any longer for the protections and security that marriage provides them and their families.”

The Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry violates the U.S. Constitution, thereby invalidating all state statutes and constitutional amendments barring same-sex couples from marriage or denying them respect for their valid out-of-state marriages. Following the ruling, Lambda Legal quickly filed motions with the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota and with the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First and Fifth Circuits asking those courts to act quickly in striking down the North Dakota, Louisiana and Puerto Rico marriage bans. Lambda Legal represents a married lesbian couple seeking to have their marriage recognized in North Dakota, in Jorgensen v. Montplaisir, seven same-sex Louisiana couples seeking to marry or have their marriages recognized as well as Forum for Equality Louisiana, a statewide LGBT rights organization, in Robicheaux v. Caldwell, and five same-sex Puerto Rico couples also seeking to marry or have their marriages recognized as well as Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, an LGBT rights organization, in Conde-Vidal v. Rius-Armendariz.

Jorgensen v. Montplaisir is currently stayed before the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, Conde-Vidal v. Rius-Armendariz is on appeal before the First Circuit, and Robicheaux v. Caldwell is on appeal before the Fifth Circuit, together with cases out of Mississippi and Texas. The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in Robicheaux and the Texas and Mississippi cases earlier this year, but has not yet issued a ruling.

“The law of the land is now clear,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Kyle Palazzolo said. “If these courts were awaiting direction from the Supreme Court, well now they have it. There is no reason for the courts not to act immediately to strike down these remaining bans and end this discrimination once and for all.”

In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled on six cases on review out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit: two Ohio cases, Obergefell v. Hodges, where the ACLU joined with Gerhardstein & Branch, and Henry v. Hodges, where Lambda Legal joined Gerhardstein & Branch; DeBoer v. Snyder, a Michigan case litigated by private counsel and GLAD; Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear, two Kentucky cases litigated by private counsel and the ACLU; and Tanco v. Haslam, a Tennessee case litigated by private counsel and NCLR.

The brief in Jorgensen v. Montplaisir is available here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/jorgensen_nd_20150626_plaintiffs-motion

The letter in Robicheaux v. Caldwell is available here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/robicheaux_la_20150626-letter

Information on Conde-Vidal v. Rius-Armendariz is available here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/conde-v-rius-armendariz

Lambda Legal attorneys Kenneth Upton, Susan Sommer, Camilla Taylor, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Kyle Palazzolo, Hayley Gorenberg, Karen Loewy, and Paul Castillo worked on these cases, joined by co-counsel Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Celina Romany-Siaca, José L. Nieto and Ada Conde Vidal in Puerto Rico, J. Dalton Courson and Lesli D. Harris with Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann LLC, Scott J. Spivey of Landry & Spivey, and Richard G. Perque in Louisiana, and John P. Borger, Michael A. Ponto, Christopher H. Dolan and Emily E. Chow with Faegre Baker Daniels in North Dakota.

Read the press release.