9th Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in same-sex marriage appeals

On Monday,  the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco (below) heard three same-sex marriage appeals from three states:

9thCircuitJackson v. Abercrombie, Case No. 12-16995 and 12-16998 (Hawaii) previously consolidated with Sevcik v. Sandoval, Case No. 12-17668 (Nevada). (The Hawaii legislature authorized same-sex marriage in 2013, which should result in dismissal of the appeal from Hawaii).

Latta v. Otter, Case No.  14-35420 and 14-35421 (Idaho)

Geiger v. Kitzhaber, Case No. 35-427 (Oregon)

These cases will be determined under the strict scrutiny standard of review, following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in SmithKline Beecham v. Abbott Laboratories, which is binding circuit precedent.

The San Francico Chronicle reports, Federal court appears unswayed by same-sex marriage opponent:

An opponent of same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada offered a rationale Monday for allowing only straight couples to marry – that it promotes a child’s “bonding right” with the biological mother and father. But the argument apparently failed to convince a federal appeals court in San Francisco.

Idaho appears to be “using another group as a scapegoat … denying children (of same-sex couples) those benefits in order to send some vague message,” said Judge Marsha Berzon, part of a three-member panel that heard the two cases at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorney Monte Stewart, defending the voter-approved laws of both states, told the court the laws send a clear message to both men and women that “if you’re going to … bring a child into this life, do it in a stable, committed relationship.”

Allowing gays and lesbians to wed, Stewart said, creates “genderless marriage” and “weakens the social expectation of the child’s bonding right,” leading to a likely increase in fatherless and motherless children.

Judge Ronald Gould asked Stewart where children’s “bonding rights” could be found in the law. The attorney acknowledged he had no legal source, just the messages that states and social institutions send to men and women.

If you really want to send a message, Berzon said, “put up a billboard.”

Gays and lesbians “have a right to live their lives as human beings,” said Judge Stephen Reinhardt, author of the court’s 2012 decision that declared California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, unconstitutional.

Judge Ronald Gould asked Stewart where children’s “bonding rights” could be found in the law. The attorney acknowledged he had no legal source, just the messages that states and social institutions send to men and women.

If you really want to send a message, Berzon said, “put up a billboard.”

Gays and lesbians “have a right to live their lives as human beings,” said Judge Stephen Reinhardt, author of the court’s 2012 decision that declared California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, unconstitutional.

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The panel did not say when it would rule. Regardless of its decision, the issue of same-sex marriage is headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sidestepped the legality of state marriage laws in June 2013 while allowing Prop. 8 to fall and overturning a law that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples.

Most Court observers believe the panel will issue a decision quickly, before the end of the month. Arizona is in the 9th Circuit. The ruling will be binding precedent to guide the ruling of U.S. District Judge John Sedwick in Connolly vs. Roche, the first of the two Arizona lawsuits (ruling pending), and Majors vs. Horne, also before Judge Sedwick. That case is in the early stages of litigation with motions due in late October.

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