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Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Shreveport couple challenges Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban

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SHREVEPORT, La -

A Shreveport lawyer and his partner are one of four Shreveport couples challenging Louisiana's constitution that prohibits same-sex marriages.

The announcement, organized by the Forum for Equality Louisiana, was made Wednesday morning in New Orleans.

Havard Scott, now of Shreveport, formerly worked as a partner at a large New Orleans-based law firm. His partner, Sergio March Prieto, a citizen of Spain and a U.S. permanent resident, is a singer and actor who has appeared in movies filmed in the Shreveport area, in other parts of the country and Spain.

By early afternoon, defenders of the same-sex prohibition voiced their objections to the lawsuit. Shreveport attorney Mike Johnson called the federal lawsuit meritless.

"The plaintiffs know full well that our courts have already examined this state's law in detail, and our Louisiana Supreme Court ruled unanimously that our constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman is valid and appropriate," Johnson said in an emailed statement. Johnson said this  is the second attempt to invalidate the Louisiana law which he helped defend a decade ago. The "Defense of Marriage Amendment" was approved by almost of 78 percent of voters in 2004.

Scott and Prieto moved to Shreveport in 2003 to care for Scott's mother, who had been

diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. In 2000, Scott and Prieto had traveled to Vermont and entered into a civil union. After that state legalized marriage for same-sex couples, they returned to Vermont in 2010 and celebrated their marriage.

Prior to the Supreme Court's announcement of the Windsor decision, Sergio received permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) to remain in the United States based on his employment. After Windsor was announced, CIS reviewed immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse. Sergio received notice he would receive a Green Card to remain in the U.S.  based on his status as Scott's spouse.

Despite the recognition of Scott and Prieto's marriage by federal immigration authorities, Louisiana refuses to recognize the validity of their Vermont marriage.

"We are fortunate to live in Shreveport, which like New Orleans, grants comprehensive employment, housing and public accommodations to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens," Scott said in a prepared statement. "It's notable that Shreveport, a conservative North Louisiana city, is far more advanced than the State of Louisiana, which treats its LGBT citizens as badly as any state possibly can."

The Shreveport City Council recently expanded the city's workplace anti-discrimination ordinance with only one dissenting vote.

Before the Immigration Service granted Prieto a green card based on his performance work, Scott and Prieto went to Spain. "When we returned, we got hassled at the Atlanta airport. The Immigration officers searched him," Scott said.  "When they found a picture of us with my arm around him, they asked him if I was his boyfriend. He was denied entry and had to return to Spain. It went to the fact that he was gay."

The federal government, after the Windsor decision, extended spousal rights to all same-sex married couples, regardless of the state of their residence.

"I literally received my Green Card as a spouse of an American," Prieto said. "We were ecstatic."

"We are professional people and pay a lot of taxes to our government," Scott said.  "Our government should treat us equally."

 Despite the recognition of their marriage by federal authorities, the Forum for Equality's announcement says the state of Louisiana refuses to recognize the validity of their marriage, will not permit them to claim married status for purpose of state income taxes, nor do they have the presumptive right to make basic decisions on each other's behalf, including funeral plans.

Johnson said the law did not seek to impose some disadvantage on same-sex couples.

"There is zero evidence in Louisiana that our Defense of Marriage Amendment was motivated by anything other than our citizens' legitimate concerns about defending our civil tradition of marriage—for all of the myriad benefits that it provides to children and our society as a whole," said Johnson. "In fact, the Louisiana Supreme Court specifically stated in 2005 that ‘emotions [did] not govern our resolution of this case,' and ‘[a]though a "same-sex marriage ban" is effected by the provisions of the constitutional amendment, the ban itself is not the main purpose or object of the amendment."

The announcement is the latest in a series of significant events related to gay causes that have played out over the past week:

 --  Late last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that gay Americans would be given the same rights as heterosexual couples when filing bankruptcy, testifying in federal court or visiting partners in federal prison.

--  On Sunday, a standout defensive end from the University of Missouri, Michael Sam, announced that he was gay – setting the stage for him to become the first openly gay lineman in the NFL.

--  On the world stage,  a gay-rights theme simmers beneath the competition at the Winter Olympics in Russia. In June President Vladimir Putin signed into law a ban against the promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships. The anti-gay sentiment prompted protests and President Barack Obama to include former gay athletes in the official U.S. delegation sent to the games in Sochi.

 

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