The question marks are definitely called for, but the cause of marriage equality in the Sportsman's Paradise took a big step yesterday. Forward, backward or sideways is still unclear.
US District Court judge Martin Feldman, hearing arguments on a full faith and credit case (can couples legally married in other states claim married status in Louisiana?), "threw a curveball" to proponents and opponents of marriage when he announced that he would rule not only on the issue brought before the court, but on the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state.
Announcing that he wasn't interested in tackling the subject "piecemeal," Feldman said he intended to rule on the right of same-sex couples to marry, strictly forbidden under state law.
From the Advocate:
“I feel uncomfortable resolving some issues one way or the other and not all the issues one way or another,” Feldman said, asking for additional briefs within three weeks but putting off a decision about whether to hear more oral arguments."No conclusive hints," indeed. Feldman's grilling of both sides, and his insistence that he has yet to make up his mind on the issues, leaves advocates on both sides wondering whether his rulings will be cause for cheer or groan. (Do read through the Advocate article; it has a lot of the back and forth between Feldman and the parties, including what appears to be a dismissal of the Loving case as precedent).
The judge’s decision will likely mean a short delay in any ruling on the recognition issue, but it could greatly speed up a decision on whether same-sex couples can get a marriage licence in Louisiana. Under the court’s original instructions, now moot, lawyers for both sides were to argue over the recognition issue, allow the full appeals process to play out and only then take up the case of a gay couple who attempted to get a marriage license in New Orleans and got turned down.
Another outstanding issue before Feldman is whether Louisiana is violating the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech by forcing married same-sex couples to list themselves as single on tax returns.
Instead of taking on each question separately, Feldman appears ready to issue one ruling on all of them, though he dropped no conclusive hints about which way he might be leaning.
Whatever the results of this case, Feldman's decision to tackle the whole hog make this a bigger deal than anyone expected when the hearing convened.