Judge blocks Louisiana mar­riage law

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

BA­TON ROUGE, La. — A fed­eral judge has per­ma­nently blocked a Louisiana law that pre­vented for­eign­born U.S. cit­i­zens from get­ting mar­ried if they couldn’t pro­duce their birth cer­tifi­cates.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle’s rul­ing re­solves a law­suit Lafayette res­i­dent Viet Anh Vo filed last year af­ter he and his U.S.-born fi­ancee had their ap­pli­ca­tion for a mar­riage li­cense re­jected two weeks be­fore their wed­ding.

The per­ma­nent in­junc­tion ben­e­fits any­one whom the 2016 law pre­vented from ob­tain­ing a mar­riage li­cense.

The judge ini­tially blocked en­force­ment of the statute in March, pend­ing Tues­day’s fi­nal rul­ing. Law­mak­ers re­sponded in June by al­low­ing mar­riage li­cense ap­pli­cants to get ju­di­cial waivers if they can’t pro­duce their birth cer­tifi­cates. But Lemelle said the new law, which took ef­fect Aug. 1, pre­served other un­con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions, such as pass­port and visa re­quire­ments, that ap­ply only to for­eign-born cit­i­zens.

The state failed to demon­strate a “com­pelling gov­ern­men­tal in­ter­est” in cre­at­ing a two-tiered sys­tem based on whether a cit­i­zen was born in­side or out­side the U.S., he said.

“The State of Louisiana is not harmed by hav­ing to is­sue a mar­riage li­cense to, in this case, a United States cit­i­zen who merely lacks a birth cer­tifi­cate due to cir­cum­stances be­yond his con­trol,” Lemelle wrote, adding that the right to mar­riage is “fun­da­men­tal.”

AP/MARK LENNIHAN

Tug­boats guide a barge, laden with a $195 mil­lion heat-re­cov­ery steam gen­er­a­tor, past the Statue of Lib­erty on Tues­day in New York.

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