Almost a week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of marriage equality, Louisiana officials on Thursday stopped enforcing the state's same-sex marriage ban and started issuing licenses.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who recently announced his presidential bid, had held off as long as possible until a lower federal court on Thursday ordered Louisiana agencies to abide by the Supreme Court decision, giving him no legal path to maintain the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Jindal's spokesman, Mike Reed, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that the court order directs state agencies "to comply and all questions about processing benefits should be directed to them."
Jindal was initially defiant when the Supreme Court ruled Friday, denouncing the decision in a statement from his presidential campaign as an “all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree.”
Jindal’s office also said Louisiana's policy would remain unchanged until the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals acted, adding that officials could continue to decline issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds.
“If any such state employee or official who asserts a religious objection is faced with a legal challenge for doing so, numerous attorneys have committed to defend their rights free of charge, subject to the facts of each case,” Jindal’s office said in a memo.
But Jindal shifted his tone on Sunday, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that his state will abide by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“We don’t have a choice,” Jindal said. “Our agencies will comply with the court order.”
In local parishes, clerks responded by issuing licenses on Monday. But state agencies, including the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, continued to decline to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Then on Wednesday, the 5th Circuit directed district courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to issue orders ending enforcement of same-sex marriage bans. But even then, Reed said state agencies would "follow the Louisiana Constitution until the District Court orders us otherwise."
On Thursday, District Court Judge Martin Feldman issued that ruling.
"Today, the Eastern District Court of Louisiana ordered the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who complete a marriage application at the Department's Office of Vital Records in Orleans Parish," Olivia Hwang, a spokeswoman for the agency, told NOLA.com.
Asked why the state waited for the Supreme Court’s decisions to trickle down to the lowest federal court, even after the 5th Circuit affirmed the decision, Reed told BuzzFeed News, “The 5th Circuit did not render final judgment.”
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at email@example.com.
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