The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled last week that the states under its jurisdiction could continue defining marriage as they see fit.
Amid a flurry of recent decisions overturning state marriage laws, the Sixth Circuit’s decision came as a surprise to many.
In so doing, it became the first federal court since United States v. Windsor to rule that states can define marriage as between one man and one woman.
For the time being, the laws of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee remain intact. This case came as the result of private lawsuits challenging the marriage laws of each state. Opponents argue the marriage laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote for the majority of the court that constitutionalizing the marriage debate would be “demeaning to the democratic process.”
This case came as a surprise to many after several district and circuit courts addressed the issue in the past year, all ruling to redefine marriage.
Since the Supreme Court opened the door in United States v. Windsor, lower courts addressed the issue without a clear rule. The Supreme Court declined a petition to settle the marriage debate nationally, further adding to the uncertainty.
Many observers believe this marriage decision puts more pressure than ever on the Supreme Court to address the issue.
With same-sex marriage legal in more than thirty states and counting, it is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court settles the issue for the entire country.