State Attorney General To Clerks: No Need To Issue Licenses To Same-Sex Couples Just Yet

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal decried Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage as a threat to religious freedom and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said it didn't have to be enforced immediately, but neither indicated they would attempt to defy it.

         It was unclear how soon gay couples would be able to tie the knot in Louisiana. Caldwell said nothing in the 5-4 ruling says marriage licenses must be granted immediately. The Louisiana Clerks Association issued a statement saying it was advising clerks of court to wait for the end of a 25-day period in which the high court may consider a rehearing before issuing licenses.

         Gay rights advocates said two gay couples in Louisiana immediately sought a license at the state vital records office in New Orleans but were still waiting Friday afternoon. There also were reports of same-sex couples seeking licenses in Lafayette.

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         Meanwhile, gay rights attorneys took steps to cement the newly won right in one of the few states where a voter-approved constitutional ban on gay marriage had been upheld by a federal judge.

         Kenneth Upton, attorney for the organization Lamda Legal, wrote the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking an immediate reversal of U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman's order upholding the ban. The 5th Circuit heard arguments on bans in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas several months ago and decisions in each were pending. Also pending was a state Supreme Court decision of an appeal of a state district judge's ruling against the ban.

         Chris Otten, chairman-elect of the Forum for Equality Louisiana, a gay rights group, acknowledged it was unlikely officials in all 64 parishes in Louisiana would immediately begin issuing licenses.

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         "I don't think it's unreasonable for some of the clerks to meet with their counsel and decide how they're going to go forward," Otten said. "But this is happening."

         A celebration of the decision was planned for Friday afternoon at Jackson Square in New Orleans' French Quarter.

         But the governor sent a different message.

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         "This decision will pave the way for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision," Jindal, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said in a fundraising email. "This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty."

         Louisiana voters approved a 2004 amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriages in the state and prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

         "I am extremely disappointed by this decision," Caldwell, who had fought to support the state ban, said in a news release. "It fails to respect traditional marriage as defined by Louisiana voters, and is yet another example of the federal government intrusion into what should be a state issue."


         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill



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