The effort to legalize same-sex marriage took center stage this week in Cincinnati, as a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court heard five cases from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. These judges have the opportunity to abolish the discriminatory prohibition of same-sex marriage, and they should do so.
Ohio and Tennessee officials asked the panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule lower-court decisions that require them to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Michigan and Kentucky officials asked the panel to reverse rulings that struck down voter-endorsed bans on same-sex marriage in those states.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine opposes same-sex marriage. He argues for preservation of the state constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, that limits the definition of marriage to “a union between one man and one woman.” He filed a brief asking the appeals court panel to continue to deny gay married couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples.
Marriage is a fundamental right that should be offered to all Americans equally. Other bans on same-sex marriage have properly been challenged and overturned in court.
These cases are significant, and could cause the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. It seems inevitable that the issue will land before the high court.
There has been a steady increase in public support for marriage equality in recent years. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and Washington.
Lower courts are consistently ruling that gay couples have a right to marry. Last year, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Ensuring marriage equality and the domestic rights of all Americans is the right thing to do. The 6th Circuit panel — composed of two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee — could at least temporarily force four states to end marriage discrimination.
When these cases reach the Supreme Court, the justices likely will either rule that gay marriages are legal nationwide or leave the question up to individual states. It would be ideal if Ohio and Michigan got on the right side of the fight.