Starting this week, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral argument in a same-sex marriage case, appealed from the decision in DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F. 3d 388 (2014).
In the 6th Circuit decision, which included the Tennessee Attorney General as one of the parties to the suit, the Court of Appeals reversed a federal court decision that held the various gay marriage bans challenged in the case were unconstitutional.
The crux of the decision rested on the following dicta:
“whether to allow the democratic processes begun in the States to continue in the four States of the Sixth Circuit or to end them now by requiring all States in the Circuit to extend the definition of marriage to encompass gay couples.”
The case consolidated challenges to gay marriage bans in several different states, which included Tennessee. The court engaged in an extensive discussion of the different ways in which lower courts, and even the Supreme Court, interpret various claims.
It gave a discussion regarding the due process challenge to the Tennessee laws regarding traditional marriage. It found that the determination of whether the plaintiffs’ due process rights were violated depends upon whether marriage is a constitutionally protected fundamental right. It stated that “the test is whether the right is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” such that “neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.”
In answer to that question, it found that “the right to marry in general, and the right to gay marriage in particular, nowhere appear in the Constitution. That route for recognizing a fundamental right to same-sex marriage does not exist.”
It further found that the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, when referring to marriage as a fundamental institution, was referring only to marriage in the traditional sense of the term.
The opinion contains an extensive discussion of the tradition of marriage and laws relating thereto. The opinion is unusual in that it is written in an almost narrative style. Clearly, there is more detail because of the controversial nature of the underlying subject matter.
The court ultimately reversed the lower court decision, stating its primary reason for doing so was to support the legislative process, the voice of the people, to address the issue, and that “when the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers.” It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court decides, once the decision in the case is published.
If you have a family law matter in Tennessee contact the Nashville family law attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC. Our legal team can guide you through the process of dissolution with compassion and competence, or assist you in any other family law matter. For an initial consultation, contact one of our attorneys today through this website, or by calling (615) 800-7096.