In Victory for LGBT Law Enforcement, Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenges to Same-Sex Marriage

New York — Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that it would not hear challenges to several appeals court rulings upholding same-sex marriage rights.

Previously, Arent Fox LLP filed amicus briefs on behalf of LGBT law enforcement groups in three separate cases — challenging same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee — at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the appellate panels whose rulings in support of marriage equality the Supreme Court declined to review.

“We argued that laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny, doubly so when affecting individuals in law enforcement, because of the long history of discrimination and harassment targeting gays and lesbians,” said Complex Litigation partner Hunter T. Carter. “The briefs also demonstrate that bans on same-sex marriage uniquely harm LGBT law enforcement officers because when an officer is killed in the line of duty only lawful ‘spouses’ are automatically eligible for benefits.”

Mr. Carter intends to file additional briefs on behalf of LGBT law enforcement groups in ongoing cases at the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits. In light of the Supreme Court’s unexpected refusal to hear challenges to the Circuit Court holdings, Mr. Carter noted that the appellate rulings are henceforth “final and binding on all States within their jurisdiction.”

“We congratulate our clients who filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold marriage equality for same sex couples,” said Mr. Carter. “We share our clients’ joy in knowing they may now enjoy the same marriage rights as everyone else. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the appeals of decisions in that case, and in cases from the Fourth and Tenth Circuits, upholding marriage equality.”

Mr. Carter is a prominent advocate of marriage equality on both the national and international stages, and was one of the key figures behind New York State’s legalization of same-sex unions in 2011. At the international level, he is a strong advocate of civil rights in Latin America, notably Colombia, where he lives part of the year. A lawsuit he brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking official denunciation of Chile for not recognizing same-sex marriages performed legally in other countries, has helped push gay marriage to the front of the political agenda in that country. Mr. Carter, who is fluent in Spanish, writes a blog, “The Colombia Law & Business Post.” He also serves on the board of the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.

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