Baton Rouge leaders disheartened, others encouraged by gay-marriage ban decision

Gay-rights activists and supporters in Baton Rouge are disappointed by a New Orleans-based federal judge’s decision Wednesday upholding Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage, while other local leaders are encouraged by the news.

But the gay-rights activists also see the ruling in the context of a national legal battle they expect to lead to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joe Traigle, a Baton Rouge business owner and prominent activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, called the ruling a “speed bump” in a larger shift toward recognition of same-sex marriages across the country.

“Judge (Martin) Feldman is going to, in another year or so, look back and he will probably be the only federal judge in the U.S. that’s ruled this way,” Traigle said. “The tide of tolerance and acceptance is so strong that there’s no turning this back.”

Matthew Patterson, the research and policy coordinator for Equality Louisiana, a statewide coalition for LGBT advocacy groups, said he was especially offended by the judge’s comparison of gay sex to incest.

The ruling “trots out arguments on procreation that are inaccurate and silly,” Patterson said of the 32-page ruling, available online. “The level of contempt and dismissiveness is what stands out for me.”

The Rev. Keith Mozingo, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Baton Rouge, said seven gay couples in his church told him they have considered traveling elsewhere to marry. Two of those couples told him that with a ruling upholding the state’s gay-marriage ban, they are seriously considering moving to a state that will recognize them as a couple.

“They were really counting on this ruling to be able to live openly as married people,” he said.

But Patterson remained optimistic about what he says is a larger trend toward such acceptance across the country, with previous judges ruling against gay-marriage bans. “I didn’t think … we’d get to the point at which this snowballed the way that it has.”

Other community leaders, however, are happy with the judge’s decision.

Donna Carville, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, said the ruling supports the church’s views on marriage, though she declined to comment further.

The Rev. Donald Hunter Sr., pastor of New Beginning Baptist Church, said he is glad to see a ruling in favor of the Louisiana ban.

“I know it’s going to be appealed,” Hunter said of the ruling. “I am at least thankful that the federal judge again upheld the constitution of the state of Louisiana, which has been set forth by the people.”

Hunter added that his own personal opinion of the law is not as relevant as what the Scriptures say on the issue.

“We don’t have any discretion if you are a minister of the Christian faith to embrace any other doctrine or trend no matter how popular it may be,” Hunter said. “We are confined and constrained by what has been set forth by God.”