Town Halls

The Meaning of Marriage

What is the Right Question for the Courts in the Marriage Debate?


On November 6, 2014, Judge Jeffrey Sutton authored an opinion upholding state bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. His opinion created the lower-court split that ultimately led to the Supreme Courts taking up the issue of same-sex marriage once again.

Sixteen gay and lesbian couples asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals the questions posed below. Judge Sutton's opinion, joined by Judge Deborah L. Cook, caused a stir by answering them in a very different fashion than the other four courts of appeal that heard similar cases.

The couples asked:

Does the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, also invalidate state laws defining marriage? Does the Constitution prohibit a state from denying recognition to same-sex marriages conducted in other states?

Dr. John C. Eastman, Founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, tackles these very questions and the meaning of this decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals to the continuing national conversation on marriage.