— Gay couples in Indiana were lining up to get married Wednesday after a
federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Judge Richard Young ruled that the state's ban violates the U.S.
Constitution's equal-protection clause because it treats couples
differently based on their sexual orientation. The ruling also said
Indiana must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state.
couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right
to marry in Indiana," he wrote. "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 Marion County
Clerk's Office began issuing marriage licenses and performing civil
ceremonies shortly after the ruling. As of mid-afternoon, about two dozen
same-sex couples were lined up for licenses.
"That's all we
ever wanted, was to be treated equal, and that's what this means," Rick
Sutton, president of Indiana Equality Action, said after marrying his
partner, Robert Owens, at the clerk's office Wednesday.
attorney general's office said it would appeal the ruling and quickly ask
Young to stay his order. It isn't clear whether marriages performed
Wednesday would continue to be recognized if a stay is granted.
general's office has defended the state law in court, saying the
Legislature has the legal authority to define marriage within Indiana's
borders. The agency also said it would advise county clerks on what
procedures to follow in the wake of the ruling.
Jake Miller, 30,
a software engineer, and 35-year-old Craig Bowen, a digital design
engineer, were the first couple to be married in Indianapolis following
Wednesday's ruling. Miller and Bowen have been together eight years.
don't know, so they might be a little bit mad at us," Miller said about
the sudden marriage.
across the country have been striking down gay marriage bans, but many of
those rulings are on hold pending appeal. Attorneys on both sides of the
issue expect the matter to eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court.
So far, courts
haven't given any clear direction, said Carl Tobias, a constitutional law
professor at the University of Richmond who has been tracking the recent
"We don't have a
final decision," Tobias said.
The ruling came
the same day the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court
ruling overturning Utah's gay marriage ban, marking the first time a
federal appeals court has ruled that states must allow gay marriage. That
ruling puts the issue a step closer to the nation's highest court.
But in Indiana,
advocates were celebrating a local win.
"Hoosiers can now
proclaim they are on the right side of history," Lambda Legal, the
national gay rights group that represented five of the couples that
challenged Indiana's ban, said in a statement.
executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which
represented 13 plaintiffs in the cases that led to the ruling, added:
"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."
But the fight
isn't over. In addition to the state's planned appeal of Young's ruling,
Indiana lawmakers could renew an effort to ban gay marriage in the state's
movement faltered during this year's legislative session when lawmakers
removed language about civil unions from the amendment. That means the
soonest the issue could appear on a ballot is 2016, unless federal court
rulings scuttle the proposed amendment.
Democratic Leader Scott Pelath from Michigan City said it was time to end
the debate over same-sex marriage.
"In Indiana, we
need to take heed of this change. We need to stop this debate now. It is
pointless to continue."