Thankfully, Louisiana’s sodomy laws were repealed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas in which all state sodomy laws across the country were declared unenforceable. But, Louisiana’s voters would not be kept from discriminating against same-sex couples in other ways, because, just a year later, they approved the Louisiana Constitutional Amendment 1 that outlawed gay marriages and civil unions.
Not surprisingly, a statute already existed stating that only opposite-sex couples could not marry, but the amendment took it to the next level and put it in the constitution, thus, protecting it from court action. The amendment says that “marriage in the state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman…prohibit the recognition of a marriage contracted in another jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman.” The constitution also goes on to state that “a purported marriage between persons of the same sex violates a strong public policy of the state of Louisiana” and although it makes a clear point, the language seems somewhat strong nonetheless.
Also, same-sex couples may not contract to marry nor have marriages from other states recognized. But, perhaps the worst part about Louisiana’s neglect of the LGBT community is that discrimination laws intended to protect employees were allowed to expire in 2008. This means that sexual orientation is not under laws regarding hate crimes where details like race and religion are.
Domestic partnerships, however, managed to be left out of the amendment’s writing and this type of legal relationship is not, as of yet, being challenged. Additionally, the state of Louisiana does not explicitly deny the right to second-parent adoption by same-sex couples.
Challenging the Amendment
Despite the amendment’s approval, it would not go without being challenged. Shortly after its passage, Forum for Equality took the issue to court in Forum for Equality v. McKeithen claiming that the amendment “went too far” and would create problems for unmarried couples with private contracts, regardless of their sexual orientation.
There has not been much follow-up but apparently the New Orleans couple, Kristoffer Bonilla and John Thomas Wray, filed a lawsuit on April 2, 2009 to sue several state and local officials for refusing to issue them a marriage license. They are claiming that the constitutional gay marriage ban violates their First Amendment rights. Neither proponents nor opponents of gay marriage were aware that a case like this one was underway in the state.
Politicians do not seem to have been major players here, but former Governor Buddy Roemer was a Democrat before switching to the GOP in 1991, is twice-divorced and known mostly for his potential as a politician than what he actually accomplished. He said “the issue of gay marriage is one on which I am clear. As I said in the interview, I am a traditionalist on this issue as is my Methodist Church. A marriage is between a man and a woman. Gays will not be slandered by me or my church, but gay marriage is not an option.”
- Can gay couples marry in Louisiana? No.
- Can gay couples enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships? Civil unions, no, and there is no legislation prohibiting domestic partnerships.
- Are legal relationships between gay couples that were performed elsewhere recognized? No.