Federal Judge Upholds Louisiana's Same-Sex-Marriage Ban

Lester Berryman, a same-sex-marriage advocate, speaks at a rally in New Orleans in June 2013. i

Lester Berryman, a same-sex-marriage advocate, speaks at a rally in New Orleans in June 2013. Gerald Herbert/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Gerald Herbert/AP
Lester Berryman, a same-sex-marriage advocate, speaks at a rally in New Orleans in June 2013.

Lester Berryman, a same-sex-marriage advocate, speaks at a rally in New Orleans in June 2013.

Gerald Herbert/AP

A federal judge in New Orleans has upheld Louisiana's law banning same-sex marriage. The decision is the first break in a string of more than two dozen federal court rulings that have struck down same-sex-marriage bans in other states over the past year.

In upholding Louisiana's ban, Judge Martin Feldman noted that same-sex marriage was "inconceivable until very recently," and, though legal in 19 states, he said it is "not yet so entrenched" as to be a fundamental right recognized by the Constitution. Louisiana, he said, has a "legitimate interest ... in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents."

If states must permit same-sex marriage, the judge asked, would they also have to permit marriage between two members of the same family, or marriage between more than two people?

Feldman's decision is the first federal court decision upholding a gay-marriage ban since the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a federal law that had banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages in states where such unions are legal. Since that decision, there have been 27 rulings in federal courts striking down same-sex-marriage bans. Three of those decisions are on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Feldman, appointed by President Reagan, has been involved in other high-profile cases. In 2010, he overturned the Obama administration's temporary ban on deep-sea drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

As NPR's Debbie Elliott reports, an appeal is planned, according to a spokesman for the gay-rights group Forum for Equality Louisiana. And some same-sex-marriage cases are expected to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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