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Baskin v. Bogan (7th Cir.)

Baskin v. Bogan was a federal-court challenge to discriminatory marriage laws in Indiana that prohibit same-sex marriage.  In June 2014, the district court ruled that these laws violate the plaintiffs’ rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and that “[f]undamental rights, once recognized, cannot be denied to particular groups on the ground that these groups have historically been denied those rights.”  Indiana filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 

On August 5, 2014, Constitutional Accountability Center and the Cato Institute jointly filed a friend of the court brief in the Seventh Circuit, urging the court of appeals to uphold the lower court’s decision.  Our brief demonstrates that the text and history of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee equality under the law and require equality of rights for all classes of persons and groups, including gay men and lesbians.  The framers of the Fourteenth Amendment recognized the right to marry as a basic civil right of all persons.  As our brief demonstrates, the Amendment’s sweeping guarantee of equality unambiguously applies to the plaintiffs in Baskin, and prohibits discriminatory marriage laws.  Baskin was consolidated with another Seventh Circuit case, Wolf v. Walker (a federal-court challenge to discriminatory marriage laws in Wisconsin), for purposes of oral argument and disposition. 

On August 26, 2014, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit heard oral argument in Baskin and Wolf, and, only nine days later, on September 4, unanimously affirmed the lower courts’ decisions, agreeing that the discriminatory marriage laws of Indiana and Wisconsin violate the Fourteenth Amendment.  Judge Richard Posner, author of the Seventh Circuit’s opinion, criticized the states’ various arguments as “so full of holes that [they] cannot be taken seriously.”  Sexual orientation, he wrote, is an “immutable characteristic,” and thus discrimination against same-sex couples is constitutionally suspect.

On October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court denied certiorari, thus allowing the 7th Circuit’s decision recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage to stand, clearing the way for marriage equality in all of the states within that Circuit.