June 16, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Appeals court sets August 6 for marriage arguments in four states

gavel, gay news, Washington Blade, justice

The Sixth Circuit has set August 6 as the single day to hear to each of the marriage equality cases before the court (Photo by Bigstock).

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 6 as the single day to hear arguments in the five marriage equality cases pending before the court, setting up a historic day for each of the four states in the circuit.

In four separate notices on Monday, the Sixth Circuit, which is located in Cincinnati, announced that arguments for the cases in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee will take place on August 6 at 1 pm.

James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT project, said his organization welcomes the developments for each of the cases. His organization is assisting with litigation in the Ohio case.

“We’re happy to see the Circuit taking up this issue so quickly,” Esseks said. “All the cases together reinforce how sweeping and widespread are the harms that come from the marriage bans.”

Although it hasn’t been officially announced, attorneys representing same-sex couples in the cases say for the sake of consistency they assume the same three-judge panel will hear arguments for each of the lawsuits. The names of the judges on the panel will be announced shortly before arguments.

On the same day, the court in a separate order denied the ability of Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued against the Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court, to intervene in the Ohio case. She had sought intervene in the litigation on behalf of Equality Ohio and four same-sex couples.

According to the eight-page notice handed down from the court, Kaplan was denied the ability to participate because the cases is too far advanced at this point.

“[W]e conclude that the Intervenors’ motion is untimely,” the notice states. “The Intervenors knew or should reasonably have known of their interest in this case well before this appeal was filed, and whether we review the appeal en banc as an initial matter is not a sufficient reason for delaying their intervention. The appeal is now fully briefed, and granting intervention at this stage would necessitate supplemental briefing by the parties.”

Both the State of Ohio and the ACLU objected to Kaplan’s participation in the case, even though the ACLU worked with her in efforts to litigate against DOMA.

The Sixth Circuit has the distinction of being the only federal appellate court in history where each of the four states within the circuit have marriage cases on appeal.

The only case among the four that is outright seeking the right for same-sex couples to marry is the Michigan case, DeBoer v. Snyder.

The Tennessee case, Tanco v. Haslam, was filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and seeks state recognition for same-sex couples married elsewhere. So is the Kentucky case, Bourke v. Beshear, although that case was amended at the district court to seek outright marriage equality.

One Ohio case, Obergefell v. Himes, is seeking the same-sex marriage recognition rights for the purposes of death certificates, the other, Henry v. Himes, is related to birth certificates, but in that case the district judge ruled against the state’s marriage ban for all purposes of recognition.

It’s isn’t immediately clear how scheduling for the cases will play out, but time for some cases is longer than others. The court set 30 minutes for each side in the Michigan and Ohio cases, but 15 minutes for each side in the Tennessee and Kentucky cases.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

11 Comments
  • Linda Giovanna Zambanini

    Great news! Let's hope the 3 judge panel they select isn't made up of right wing judges!

  • Sadly the 6th is pretty conservative.

  • Linda Giovanna Zambanini

    Jeffrey Marks Yes I know! :(

  • Great news! Good luck.

  • My fear is that if the panel is comprised of all conservative judges, they'll rule that states have the right to decide who can/cannot get married within their borders, but will still agree that a state must recognize a marriage legally performed in another state. I'm hoping this is the worst case scenario, however.

  • Telly McGaha Worst case is that they say no to everything on the table. They are THE most overturned appeals court in the nation (not the 9th as typically thought.) Either way, this is just a weigh station on the path to SCOTUS, so we just need to worry about Anthony Kennedy.

  • Linda Giovanna Zambanini

    I just read in another article about this case that the court filing Monday says, that the arguments could be canceled if the judges decide briefs and the court record are enough for a decision. I think this means there's the possibility they could rule that day (Aug 6th).

  • Linda Giovanna Zambanini

    Even if they rule against us, look at it this way: we have to have a loss somewhere along the line to set up a conflict for SCOTUS to resolve. I figure the 6th Circuit or the 5th Circuit will be it.
    (The 5th Circuit in NewOrleans is notoriously the most conservative in the country – no surprise!)

  • That would be fantastic. I've read the Kentucky briefs; they're thorough enough. The 18 amici that were filed for us also help (the 5 filed against us are the same old, same old). I can't imagine 15 minutes of arguing is going to add any additional legal precedent or logic, but who knows. With four states lined up, I don't see them refusing to hear the oral arguments, however. Very, very big day! Here's hoping they come to a quick decision and we can move on to the next step.

  • Linda Giovanna Zambanini Agreed that I thought it would be the 5th that would rule against us. At this point, the 6th would be hard pressed to rule against equality given that they're hearing 5 cases which were all wins for equality. It would be hard to reverse all of those without issue.

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