Ninth Circuit Hears Arguments On Same-Sex Marriage Bans

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Monday, September 8, 2014 - 6:12pm
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Courtesy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
A screenshot of the video stream of oral argument on Sept. 8.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco heard oral arguments Monday on same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. The court’s decision is likely to impact other state laws as well, including Arizona's same-sex marriage ban.

Attorney Monte Stewart defended both Idaho’s and Nevada’s same-sex marriage bans. Stewart had an uphill battle, given that in recent months many courts have struck down such bans.

Plus, the three judges on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel hearing these cases have all ruled in favor of gay rights in the past.

Stewart argued that allowing same-sex marriage in Idaho — what he called "genderless marriage" — would eventually undermine all marriage.

“Over time, the level of fatherless in the lives of Idaho children generally will increase,” Stewart said.

But Judge Marsha Berzon seemed skeptical.

“What strikes me is that this train has left station,” Berzon said. “In the sense that the changes occurred in American marriages before all this."

Berzon continued: "When women were not able to own property and had to do everything their husband said and so on, you had a different institution. Once all of that changed — yes, the number of people who had children in marriage went down considerably. That may be a bad thing. But it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this.”

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval decided to stop defending his state's same-sex marriage ban, so Stewart defended that law as well. In that capacity he was representing the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, an intervenor in the case. 

Stewart explained Nevada's message.

“If you are going to create a child and bring that child into this life, do it in a stable relationship known as marriage, so that the child will have the benefit of the child’s bonding right,” Stewart said. “And that is not the message of genderless marriage.”

Stewart was interrupted by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

“If the message is you should bring a child into a relationship, into a committed marriage, then they ought to be allowed to marry and then you will be sending a message about those children,” Reinhardt said.

One point that all parties seemed to agree on is that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have the final word on this issue. 

A lawsuit challenging Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage is currently being litigated in federal district court.

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