The Forum for Equality Louisiana congratulates Lafayette Judge Edward Rubin’s decision overturning Louisiana’s constitutional and statutory discrimination against the rights of same-sex couples.
“We think the decision is the correct one,” said Lesli Harris of the New Orleans law firm of Stone Pigman that represents Forum for Equality Louisiana’s separate lawsuit brought in federal court and now being appealed after an adverse decision by US District Judge Martin Feldman on many of the same issues.
Harris specifically cited the decision’s reliance on the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, which are also at issue in Forum for Equality Louisiana’s appeal that could move quickly before the 5th Circuit US Court of Appeals.
“We also think it properly relied upon the civil rights cases such as Loving v. Virginia,” Harris said. In the Loving case, the US Supreme Court in 1967 overturned laws prohibiting interracial marriages.
Judge Rubin, who is an African-American, made a lengthy comparison of Louisiana’s discriminatory laws against the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community to the state’s now moot interracial prohibitions and Jim Crow laws that segregated blacks and whites. The case was brought by plaintiffs Angela Costanza and Chastity Brewer, who were married in California and sought recognition of adoption and tax rights in Louisiana, where they reside.
“Lest we forget, there was a time in America’s history when gays and lesbians were not permitted to even associate in public. Many in this country held a deep seated hatred for the lifestyle of gays, lesbians, bisexuals etc., and with that hatred carried numerous arrests and imprisonment for those who chose a different lifestyle than what was ‘traditionally’ recognized,” Rubin wrote. “We are past that now, but when it comes to marriage between persons of the same sex, the nation is moving towards acceptance that years ago would have never been contemplated.”
“There are those who might argue that gays and lesbians can be treated differently, and yet be considered to be equal to the rest of Americans,” Rubin wrote, citing the 1896 Louisiana case, Plessy v. Ferguson. “Plessy stood for the proposition that there could be separate but equal treatment of the two races. Fortunately for this country, the US Supreme Court was presented with (Brown v. the Board of Education), which overruled any doctrine that held separate but equal,” Rubin wrote.
Rubin went on to cite court rulings that overturned bans on racially-mixed marriages, including the US Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia.
“The court does not believe that the historical background of Loving is so different from the historical background underlying states’ bans on same-sex marriage,” Rubin wrote. “One cannot look at Loving without recognizing that it was about racism as well as a couple’s decision to assert their right to choose whom to marry.”
Mary Griggs, chair of Forum for Equality Louisiana, expressed confidence that Forum will be able to overturn U.S. Judge Feldman’s ruling, which is only one of some 30 court rulings that extend civil rights to the LGBT community. “We don’t want special rights,” Griggs said. “We want equal rights under the law. That’s all.”