The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in
New Orleans on Friday heard oral arguments in cases challenging gay
marriage bans in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The hearing came just days after
Florida became the 36th state where gay and lesbian
couples can marry and on the same day that the US Supreme Court is
expected to consider whether to hear appeals in cases challenging
similar bans in four states out of the Sixth Circuit, the lone
federal appeals court to uphold such bans, and Louisiana.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia
struck down Texas' ban in February; U.S. District Judge Carlton W.
Reeves declared Mississippi's ban unconstitutional in November; and
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman upheld Louisiana's ban in August.
Each side got 30 minutes to argue their
case and answer questions from the judges.
The first state to defend its ban was
Louisiana, which argued same-sex marriage is “a new perspective on
marriage” whose consequences are not yet understood.
Judges Patrick Higginbotham and James
Graves Jr. frequently interrupted special counsel Kyle Duncan's
presentation with skeptical questions.
“So if we don't know, we should fear
the unknown and therefore we should ban it?” Graves asked after
Duncan could not answer how the marriages of gay couples would
negatively affect children.
Higginbotham's skepticism in particular
gave gay rights activists hope. He and Jerry Smith were appointed to
the bench by President Ronald Reagan, while Graves was appointed by
President Barack Obama. Smith, an extremely conservative judge, is
expected to uphold the bans, and Higginbotham is considered the swing
In a statement, Evan Wolfson, president
of Freedom to Marry, called on the Fifth Circuit to “affirm the
freedom to marry and end the discrimination that harms families and
helps no one.”