Federal appeals court in NOLA weighs same-sex marriage prohibitions

Federal appeals court in NOLA weighs same-sex marriage prohibitions

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Judges on the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans are weighing whether to strike down Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriages and similar laws in neighboring Mississippi and Texas.

Hundreds packed courtrooms Friday where hearings were held to challenge the laws. But after the three hours of courthouse proceedings, same-sex couples and their legal teams walked out hopeful they would eventually win.

"We feel very optimistic coming out of the court today," said plaintiffs attorney Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal.

The plaintiffs argue that the bans on same-sex marriage in the three states are outdated and discriminate against same-sex couples.

"Today we asked the Fifth Circuit to force the state of Louisiana to recognize the dignity and respect and quality of our marriage," said Havard Scott, a plaintiff from Shreveport, La.

"We live in South Mississippi with our twin sons, and in many ways we're a typical family. We have a home, we have pets," said Mississippi resident Andrea Sanders as she stood next to her partner.

And couples from Texas added their voices to the chorus of same-sex marriage proponents.

"Vic and I knew when we came here today that we were on the right side of history and we were on the right side of love and compassion," said Mark Pharris of Texas.

Lawyers in the case believe they made great headway with the jurists listening to the arguments.

"We got a lot of great questions from the members of the panel. There seemed to be some significant discomfort with the unequal treatment that same-sex couples and their children have been experiencing in all three states," said Taylor.

But attorneys for the states whose laws are being challenged also presented arguments. Louisiana was the first case presented, and an attorney for the state called same-sex marriage "a novel perception," and said states should retain the right to protect their citizens against it.

Some who share that opinion spoke to the media.

"It's not a ban, it's a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman," said Gene Mills of the  Louisiana Family Forum.

Mills said states' rights must be safeguarded.

"The question before the court is who gets to decide and by virtue of what process, and we are a nation governed by the rule of law and that pursuit of ordered liberty requires - not that the courts act as the legislative body - but that the people are given the opportunity to express and participate in that process," said Mills.

"There's something unique about the biological nature of a man and a woman coming together to create a job, and that's different in the same-sex context, and that was argued for enough of a reason for Texas to base their law on, and for it to be upheld," said Jonathan Saenz, of the group Texas Values.

Saenz said some see it as an affront for same-sex marriage proponents to equate their fight with the Civil Rights Movement.

"The constant use and comparison of race and trying say that this is similar to the Civil Rights Movement," he said.

The three-judge panel did not indicate when it may rule.

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