Columbia Law School Clinic Argues for Marriage Equality in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee

Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Files Amicus Briefs in 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Arguing Laws Barring Gay Couples from Marrying and Denying Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages Violate U.S. Constitution's Due Process Guarantee

New York, June 17, 2014—Four states—Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee—violate the U.S. Constitution’s due process guarantee by interfering with individuals’ ability to choose their spouse and by refusing to recognize same-sex couples’ marriages, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in amicus briefs filed yesterday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The clinic’s briefs–one for each state–explain that the due process guarantee has long been understood to protect against government interference in fundamental personal decision making, including the choice of one’s spouse. In these states, the marriage laws generally put few limits on that freedom–except for the refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry and to recognize their marriages.
In each of the four cases, gay and lesbian couples had sought to marry or to have their marriages recognized by their home state. They all prevailed in the district courts in their states, and the Sixth Circuit is now scheduled to hear appeals from each state.   

Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, who directs the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic and is a leading expert on civil rights and constitutional law, authored the briefs.
“Marriage laws in these states deny a basic right that different-sex couples enjoy: the freedom to choose their own spouse and to have the state recognize that choice no matter where the marriage takes place,” Goldberg said. “Against the backdrop of the U.S. Supreme Court’s strong protection for the freedom to marry, these states’ laws are strikingly unconstitutional.”

Columbia Law School students Julia Maddera ’16 and Hunter Vanaria ’16 assisted with research for the brief.

Oral argument in the cases is scheduled for August 6. Read the Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee briefs.