Federal judge rules Indiana’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional
Photo of first same-sex granted marriage license in Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS (June 25, 2014) – Indiana’s law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young ruled that the law violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling involves lawsuits from several same-sex couples.
The following counties are now issuing same sex marriage licenses:
- Marion – Clerk’s office will be open until 8:00 p.m. to issue licenses
Marion County has processed 50 applications and has conducted 31 civil ceremonies. At least a hundred couples are still in line waiting to apply for a license.
From the ruling:
The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue. In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage – not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.
The ruling also orders the immediate recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages in Indiana.
Five couples seeking the freedom to marry in Indiana or have their marriage from another state recognized had challenged the law. Their lawsuits were filed by Lambda Legal, a civil rights advocacy group.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said his office would appeal the decision and ask for a stay. The office is analyzing the ruling and “will communicate with county clerks on proper marriage license procedures they should follow in order to avoid chaos during the appeal.”
His office said this in a statement:
Today’s ruling still is being studied and the Attorney General’s Office soon will advise county clerks who issue marriage licenses who were defendants – the State Department of Health, the Department of Revenue and the Indiana Public Retirement System — on what changes in procedure Chief Judge Young’s decision imposes upon them during the appeal. The State will ask for a stay of today’s ruling pending appeal.
The Attorney General’s Office also noted that Gov. Mike Pence was dismissed from the lawsuit as a defendant since his office “does not issue marriage licenses nor directly administer the marriage statute.”
Marion County Clerk Beth White said her office is “prepared to comply” with the decision. She said her office would be open until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“Chief Judge Richard Young’s decision on marriage equality sets forth a clear course of action for this office to follow regarding same-sex marriage licenses. It is my responsibility to uphold court rulings that impact this office and that is what I will do,” White said in a statement.
“The Clerk’s Office will be open until at least 4:30p.m. this evening to issue licenses. I will also conduct short, civil ceremonies on a first-come, first-serve basis for a voluntary $50 contribution to the Indiana Youth Group.” Clerk White goes on to say, “All couples seeking a marriage license will be treated with dignity and respect. Prospective applicants can do some homework first on what the process entails by visiting www.indy.gov/clerk.”
Hoosier couples must apply for their marriage license in the county where one of the two partners live, not where they plan to marry. For example, if the couple lives in Marion County but plans a wedding in Brown County, they should obtain their marriage license in Marion County. Out of state couples should apply for a marriage license in the county where their vows will be solemnized.
The marriage license application should be started online at www.in.gov/judiciary; however, couples must appear in the Clerk’s Office to complete the process before being issued a license. Couple’s should note the current application asks for “bride” and “groom” names. Marion County Clerk staff have been trained on how to address this issue when the couple arrives to complete the process.
Craig Bowen and Jake Miller were the first same-sex couple granted a marriage license in Indianapolis:
Officials from the ACLU of Indiana hailed the decision in a statement:
Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, said “We are ecstatic that the court recognized what we have always maintained: That there is simply no justification for treating same-sex couples any differently than other loving couples of opposite genders.”
“Thanks to the decision of Judge Young, Hoosier couples and their children no longer have to wait for their families to be accorded the rights and dignity that only come with marriage,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. “Marriage is a commitment, declared privately and publicly, to love and honor and be responsible to and for each other. Same-sex couples want marriage, and finally marriage is possible in Indiana.”
The group is expected to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Roman Catholic bishops of Indiana weighed in with a statement as well:
The dignity of the human person, rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching. The Church upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, whom we accept and love as our brothers and sisters.
At the same time, the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage as a natural union established by God between one man and one woman, intended towards the establishment of a family in which children are born, raised, and nurtured. This is not simply a matter of belief. It is at the very heart of the nature of marriage. Thus, it is not within the power of any institution, religious or secular, to redefine marriage since it is God who is its author.
Today’s decision by Richard L. Young, Chief Judge United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, to redefine the institution of marriage as an emotional partnership between two consenting adults regardless of gender ignores this fundamental and natural truth of marriage and opens its definition to the whims of public opinion.
With deep respect for all our brothers and sisters, we nevertheless see no basis in law or in nature for any definition of marriage that seeks to expand it beyond that of a covenant between one man and one woman. Our position on this matter seeks only the common good of all men and women as well as the health and well being of families.
As pastors, we will continue to preach and teach the truth of marriage as it is ordered by God, encouraging all people to embrace the fullness of that truth, while upholding the dignity of all persons. We will continue to work through the Indiana Catholic Conference to encourage our legislators and judges to uphold this truth as well. We urge all involved in this issue to conduct themselves with mutual respect and civility in public discourse.
Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, issued a brief statement commending the ruling:
“For years now, the people of this state have been dragged through what is turning out to be a completely unnecessary debate on matters that should be left to personal choice.
“The tide is changing across our country, as more judges and legislatures decide that we do not need to be involved with this issue.
“In Indiana, we need to take heed of this change. We need to stop this debate now. It is pointless to continue.”
Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the U.S. Supreme Court needs to step in:
“Today’s ruling by Southern Indiana Federal Judge Richard Young reflects the recent national trend of same-sex marriage advocates seeking to use the federal courts to overturn state laws that recognize traditional marriage. In a growing number of rulings in multiple states, federal judges have overturned either state constitutions or state laws similar to Indiana’s law that holds that marriage is only recognized as between a man and a woman.
“It is clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to have to rule on this issue, and the sooner the better. The current chaos over state marriage laws that is being created by these lower federal court rulings needs to stop, and only the Supreme Court can make that happen, and bring clarity to this issue once and for all. Either the U.S. Constitution protects traditional marriage or it doesn’t. If it does, it is likely that the Court will leave the decision on traditional marriage to each state to decide for itself. Being a strong proponent of states’ rights, I believe this would be the proper ruling. Only time will tell if the Supreme Court agrees.
“In the meantime, I hope that state law in Indiana and elsewhere will be respected by the federal court system by granting a stay to Judge Young’s ruling until the Supreme Court takes up this case and all the others like it around the country.”
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