Reagan Appointee becomes First Federal Judge to Okay Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Friday, September 05, 2014
Judge Martin Feldman

In the 15 months since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal law banning same-sex marriage, federal courts across the land have nullified similar bans adopted at the state level. But one federal judge has decided to buck this trend, ruling Louisiana’s statute legalizing only heterosexual unions is constitutional despite what the highest court has said.


In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided in U.S. v. Windsor (pdf) that the federal government could not define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. The justices also said the federal government had to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that made them lawful (19 so far and the District of Columbia).


But the court did not say whether states could still deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Nonetheless, more than 20 federal courts have interpreted the Windsor ruling since last year to mean states cannot ban same-sex marriages. On Thursday, for example, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals supported lower court rulings overturning bans on same-sex marriage in Indiana and Wisconsin.


Judge Martin L.C. Feldman, appointed to the federal bench for the Bayou State in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, doesn’t see it this way.


“It would no doubt be celebrated to be in the company of the near-unanimity of the many other federal courts that have spoken to this pressing issue, if this court were confident in the belief that those cases provide a correct guide,” Feldman wrote in his opinion (pdf) upholding the state’s same-sex marriage ban. “Clearly, many other courts will have an opportunity to take up the issue of same-sex marriage; courts of appeals and, at some point, the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision of this court is but one studied decision among many.”


Feldman said Louisiana “needed to show only that there was a rational reason for voters to limit marriage to a man and a woman,” Robert Barnes wrote at The Washington Post. And that rational reason, Feldman determined, involved “linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents,” wrote the judge.


He added: “The court is persuaded that a meaning of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today, is not universally irrational on the constitutional grid.”


Ian Millhiser of Think Progress pointed out that Feldman in his opinion also compared same-sex marriage to incestuous relationships and polygamous marriages, something conservative opponents have often done.


Barnes says the Supreme Court may revisit the issue, given that “the winning and losing sides” in the recent appellate cases have asked the high court “to rule definitively on whether the U.S. Constitution extends the fundamental right of marriage to same-sex couples.”


As for Feldman, he last made national news when, in June 2010, he threw out the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill…which wasn’t surprising considering that he owned shares in Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon platform, and Halliburton, which performed construction on the rig before it blew up and sunk.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Federal Judge in Louisiana Rules State Has Right to Ban Same-Sex Marriages (by Robert Barnes, Washington Post)

Louisiana Judge Breaks Marriage Equality’s Unbroken Winning Streak in Federal Court (by Ian Millhiser, Think Progress)

Jonathan Robicheaux v. James Caldwell (U.S. District Court, Eastern Louisiana) (pdf)

Judge Who Ruled against Oil Drilling Moratorium Owns Oil Industry Stock (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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