Legal challenges face same-sex marriage ruling in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS – Some call it an historic day in Indiana. A federal judge has ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. While some are celebrating and rushing to get married, others are fighting back.

The Marion County Clerk’s office was open late Wednesday night as dozens of same-sex couples got their marriage licenses and said their vows. Also Wednesday night, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed an emergency order trying to stop the unions. In the motion for the stay, the state said same-sex marriages must be stopped until the U.S. Supreme Court can address if traditional marriage laws are unconstitutional.

Wednesday’s ruling by a federal judge is wide-sweeping and one the ACLU of Indiana praises.

“We’re happy it’s here,” said Ken Falk, Legal Director of the ACLU of Indiana.

Earlier in the day, plaintiffs in the suit hugged and gathered at the agency’s downtown Indianapolis headquarters.

“It’s a day for us to be really proud we live here,” said Steven Stolen, one of the plaintiffs.

Three lawsuits challenging Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage were combined in the one ruling.

“To know that we’re protected now, our relationship can be protected, and that we can cement that and the commitment we have for each other, just like all the others around us,” said Greg Hasty, one of the plaintiffs.

As fast as the news came out, couples showed up at the Marion County Clerk’s office to tie the knot.

“I’ve not seen cases that have had this sort of reaction from the public,” said Scott Barnhart, a local attorney.

Barnhart has a unique perspective. He worked in the state Attorney General’s office and now is in private practice. He said key to the judge’s ruling is the court’s broad interpretation of what a marriage is.

“The right to marry is about the ability to form a partnership, hopefully lasting a lifetime, with that one special person of your choosing,” said Judge Richard Young, in the decision handed down Wednesday.

A stay, if issued, would halt any additional marriages from being performed. But couples could be in limbo if Indiana decides not to recognize same-sex marriages that are now on the books.

“If there’s a decision that’s contrary to the current one, will it affect the outcome of these licenses, those are questions they have to address down the line,” said Barnhart.

Regardless, Wednesday there was lots of marriage movement throughout the state.

Partners Greg Hasty and C.J. Vallero, plaintiffs in the lawsuit, got married in the afternoon in Hamilton County, just one of many to tie the knot.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence said he supports the Attorney General’s push to appeal the ruling and “defend Indiana’s right to define the institution of marriage for the residents of our state.”

The Attorney General’s office in their request for a stay said the court should do so because it’s been the frequent response in other states where same-sex unions have been contested.