Equality Louisiana: What the SCOTUS Ruling Means for Louisiana

This blog post is cross-posted with permission from Equality Louisiana

What did the Court decide?

The Fourteenth Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. This is what most groups have called the best-case scenario.

What principles did the Court rely on to guide the decision?

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to marry as one of the fundamental liberties protected by its Due Process Clause, as a “personal [choice] central to individual dignity and autonomy.” The Court ruled that this protection applies with equal force to same-sex and opposite-sex couples due to the uniquely personal and intimate nature of the decision to marry, and the numerous legal and societal benefits that marriage connotes. Marriage equality is also guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, on the grounds that it is a violation of equal protection to allow opposite-sex couples but not same-sex couples to marry and receive these numerous benefits.

What about any harm done to the institution of marriage as a whole if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, or harm done to children if same-sex couples marry?

The Court didn’t find that any such thing will exist. In fact, consistent with previous Supreme Court cases and lower court rulings, they found that children of same-sex couples will only benefit from the legal recognition of their parents’ relationships.

What does this imply about other LGBT rights issues, such as employment or housing discrimination?

The decision does not speak directly to these areas.

What does this mean about state-level bans on marriage?

They are invalidated as soon as the Court’s opinion takes effect, regardless of whether they take the form of a state constitutional amendment or just a state law. (The United States Constitution is supreme over all state laws and constitutions – states may provide additional rights and protections, but they cannot remove protections guaranteed by the Constitution.) In places where cases are still outstanding in federal court, or where lower courts have ruled against marriage equality, judgments still need to be issued in favor of those seeking the freedom to marry. State officials will have to determine how to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, which may take time and will vary from state to state, but compliance is not optional.

When can I get married in Louisiana?

You officially have the full legal right to marry in Louisiana. It is our hope that state officials will recognize that the Supreme Court’s rulings are binding and begin to issue marriage licenses immediately, but without any official word from the Attorney General, it is possible that you may still be denied.

Should you try to exercise your right, let us know what your experience is – what parish you are in, whether you are successful and how you are treated. You can email our research and policy coordinator Matthew Patterson at mpatterson@equalityla.org. If you experience problems and need counsel, please include a phone number where we can reach you.

If you do plan to get married here soon, we’ll publish a separate document in the coming days that lays out the bureaucratic details of how to go about it.

Most importantly: How do we celebrate?!

If you’re in Louisiana, check out the events happening in ShreveportNew Orleans, and Baton Rouge! If you’re somewhere else, check out Unite for Marriage’s listing for an event near you.