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In DeBoer v. Snyder, the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned two Ohio District Court decisions finding that Ohio must recognize same sex marriages validly entered into in other states.   The  U.S. District Court decisions are Henry v. Wymyslo, United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, 1:14-cv-00129 (see our prior post)  and Obergefell v_Kasich_,  No. 1:13-CV-501 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 23, 2013) (see our prior post).   These decisions held that failure to recognize same sex marriages valid in other states  violates due process and/or equal protection rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution.

The Sixth Circuit majority opinion said it was bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810, 810 (1972).  In Baker, the Supreme Court issued a one line summary opinion stating there was no substantial Constitutional question involved in the denial of a marriage license to a gay couple by the State of Minnesota.  United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act, does not change things, according the Sixth Circuit.  Windsor held that a federal law could not refuse to recognize a same sex marriage sanctioned by a state, and did not address state’s rights to define marriage.  The Supreme Court recently denied petitions for writ of certiorari in numerous cases appealing circuit court decisions which found that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  But denials to hear these cases do not amount to a decision that there is a constitutional right.

The Sixth Circuit went on to state that it did not find the rationale persuasive in any of the circuit cases holding that there is a constitutional right to same sex marriage.  Rather than constitutionalizing the definition of marriage, the decision as to who can marry should be left with the voters in each state, not to the courts, the Sixth Circuit concludes.

The Sixth Circuit decision also overturned cases from federal district courts in Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky.  Because the decision conflicts with those in other circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to hear the issue.

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