Summary of gay marriage cases before appeals court

Associated Press Published:

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday on six gay marriage fights from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee on Wednesday, setting the stage for one ruling. Each case deals with whether statewide gay marriage bans violate the Constitution. A look at them:


Ohio's two cases involve rights for gay and lesbian couples at the beginning of life and at the end. One case involves two gay men whose spouses were dying. They sued to win the right to be listed as the surviving spouses on their husbands' death certificates and for their spouses to be listed as having been married.

Cincinnati civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein said the state's refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages violates the dignity of same-sex couples and amounts to unique discrimination, since Ohio has historically recognized marriages in other states that wouldn't be legal in Ohio, such as between cousins or involving minors.

Eric Murphy, Ohio's state solicitor, said that the state has traditionally defined marriage as between a man and a woman and that same-sex marriage is too new to be considered a deeply rooted, fundamental right.


Kentucky has two cases, including a lawsuit filed by three couples last year seeking to have their marriages recognized by the state.

Plaintiff's attorney Laura Landenwich told the judges that Kentucky's law doesn't have a rational purpose and discriminates against same-sex couples. Waiting for voters to change the law is not an option, Landenwich said.

In the other case, the same judge also struck down Kentucky's ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That ruling is also on hold.


Michigan's gay marriage fight began when a lesbian couple sued to change a state law that bars them from jointly adopting their three children.

The state's solicitor general, Aaron Lindstrom, said that any change in the state's ban on same-sex marriage should come through the political process.

Fundamental constitutional rights shouldn't be decided in popular votes, countered attorney Carole Stanyar, who represents the plaintiffs in that case.

"The Michigan marriage amendment gutted the democratic process," she said.


Tennessee's case applies to the marriages of three same-sex couples who sued to be recognized on their children's birth certificates.

Tennessee Associate Solicitor Joseph Whalen told the judges that the state's law doesn't discriminate because it bars recognition of any marriage not recognized by state law, rather than singling out same-sex couples. Instead, Whalen said, Tennessee's law ensures that children are born into a stable family environment.

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