It’s the first day of Spring at the Sixth Circuit, and the new season promises new skirmishes in the ongoing legal battles over same-sex marriages.
Last month, we reported on the plaintiffs’ request in Obergefell, et al. v. Wymyslo, et al. (6th Cir. Case No. 14-3057), seeking expedited briefing and argument in their high-profile case involving whether the State of Ohio constitutionally is required to recognize, on an Ohio resident’s death certificate, a same-sex marriage that was lawfully performed in another state. The Sixth Circuit ended up denying the request to expedite the appeal. See Order (PDF). Though the Court did not elaborate on its ruling, one of the reasons for keeping the appeal on a normal briefing schedule was because the plaintiffs already had received the limited relief that they sought (death certificates listing their out-of-state, same-sex marriage), and the relief will remain in place during the appeal. Appellant’s opening brief is due to be filed by April 10, 2014. See Sixth Circuit Briefing Letter(PDF).
Now comes word that Judge John Heyburn of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky is staying his February 27, 2014 order requiring Kentucky officials to immediately recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Judge Heyburn put the stay in place to allow the Sixth Circuit to either rule on the merits of the case or to order the stay lifted. See Memorandum Opinion and Order, Love v. Beshear, Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-750-H (W.D. Key). Although Judge Heyburn recognized that a final resolution of the issue is still far off (particularly given that the Sixth Circuit is unlikely to expedite the appeal in this case), he recognized that “[i]t is best that . . . momentous changes [in the law] occur upon full review, rather than risk premature implementation or confusing changes. That does not serve anyone well.” And so the battle once again shifts to the Sixth Circuit.
As these legal challenges are playing out, Judith Ellen Levy was sworn in two days ago as the first openly gay federal judge in the Sixth Circuit. Levy was nominated by President Obama back on July 25, 2013 to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in the seat vacated by Judge Nancy Garlock Edmunds.