A federal judge in Atlanta on Thursday cleared the way for a same-sex marriage case in Georgia to move to a federal appeals court, joining cases already there from Alabama and Florida. The Georgia appeal should come before the case is decided in his trial court, U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., ruled.
Although he has not ruled on the constitutionality of Georgia’s ban on same-sex marriage, the judge on January 8 did reject a number of the arguments made against the ban even as he also rejected the plea by state officials to dismiss outright the same-sex couples’ challenge. It is that preliminary ruling that state officials are now free to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Judge Duffey noted that the Eleventh Circuit Court already has before it a federal judge’s decision nullifying Florida’s ban, and he pointed out that he has taken a different approach from the Florida decision and suggested that it would be proper for the Eleventh Circuit Court to have those differences before it, if it is willing to let Georgia appeal.
The Eleventh Circuit Court also has before it, in very preliminary stages, an appeal by state officials in Alabama, seeking a postponement of two rulings by a federal judge in Mobile striking down that state’s same-sex marriage ban and its separate ban on recognizing already existing same-sex marriages.
The Eleventh Circuit Court has refused to put the Florida judge’s decision on hold, but has not yet reacted to the same request in the Alabama case.
In Thursday’s order, Judge Duffey was reacting to a plea by state officials, supported by the same-sex couples, that the case before him be put on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the cases it has agreed to review, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He concluded that it was important to keep the Georgia case moving forward, but before the Eleventh Circuit Court instead of in his trial court.
While the Eleventh Circuit Court ponders what to do with the cases before it, review is also going forward on the constitutional controversy over same-sex marriage in the other federal appeals courts that have yet to rule on it in the wave of federal court rulings over the past nineteen months: the First, Fifth and Eighth Circuit Courts.
Of the federal appeals courts that have so far ruled on the issue, only the Sixth Circuit Court has upheld the state bans it reviewed.