Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
In September, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans upheld Louisiana's ban, embodied in a constitutional amendment that forbids the state to legalize gay marriages in the state or to recognize those performed legally in other jurisdictions.
An appeal of that ruling is tentatively set to be argued in January at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
However, lawyers for gay rights groups Lambda Legal and Forum for Equality Louisiana on Thursday said they have asked the Supreme Court to take the rare step of reviewing Louisiana's case ahead of those arguments.
Same-sex marriage advocates have won cases at four circuit appeal courts. However, the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit recently upheld bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Same-sex couples challenging marriage bans in those states have asked the high court to consider an appeal of that case.
A lawyer in the Louisiana case says reviewing the state's case as well would provide the justices with a broader array of legal arguments.
"We are asking for the Supreme Court's review now while it is considering the Sixth Circuit decision because together these cases present the full gamut of aberrant arguments supporting these discriminatory bans," attorney Kenneth Upton Jr., of Lambda Legal, said in an emailed news release.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office issued a statement from Kyle Duncan, hired to defend the state's ban. "If the Supreme Court takes up this issue, Louisiana will continue to defend what it's citizens have already decided about this important issue through the Louisiana Constitution," Duncan said. "Until the Supreme Court decides whether to intervene, however, Louisiana will go forward in the U.S. Fifth Circuit, which has scheduled arguments for January 9."
The justices rarely agree to hear a case before a federal appeals court has weighed in. One such example was the 1974 dispute over President Richard Nixon's refusal to hand over Watergate tapes to special prosecutor Leon Jaworksi. After Jaworksi won in a federal trial court, both sides appealed directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the court of appeals in Washington. The Supreme Court's rulebook says the justices will deviate from the routine "only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance."