Federal judge: Indiana gay marriage ban unconstitutional
INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge struck down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday in a ruling that immediately allows gay couples to wed.
U.S. District 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.
“Same-sex 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 already was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and had begun performing ceremonies Wednesday.
“What an awesome day for Indiana. We are grateful that Judge Young concurs with recent court opinions and that he sees beyond our situation,” said Amy Sandler of Munster. “Now, along with Niki and I, all couples in Indiana have the freedom to marry. We are especially happy for our children because they’ll be growing up in a state that values all families equally.”
Sandler, 37, and Niki Quasney, 38, were married in Massachusetts and have two children, ages 3 and 1. Wednesday’s ruling requires Indiana to recognize that marriage.
“I have seen some couples getting married today on the news. That to me is the greatest outcome of this case, that people now have the freedom to marry. To me, it’s about equality and the freedom to marry,” Sandler said.
Lake County Clerk Mike Brown said no same-sex couples had been in yet to apply for a marriage license by 1 p.m. Wednesday but added, “We’ll be ready for them when they do come in.
“I’m pretty sure people will be coming,” he said.
He said same-sex couples not only can get a license immediately, but he’d make sure someone would marry them right away if that’s what the couple want.
“We’ll respect the court’s wishes,” Brown said.
The ruling involves lawsuits filed by several gay couples, who along with the state had asked for a summary judgment in the case. Young’s ruling was mixed but was generally in favor of the gay couples and prevents the state from enforcing the ban.
Bonnie Everly and Lyn Judkins, of Chesterton, one of the couples included in the lawsuit, were celebrating Wednesday but said they’re going to wait a couple days before applying for a marriage license “to make sure the ruling will stick.”
“I’m hoping by the end of next month we’ll be a married couple. We have our wedding bands and I bought Lyn an engagement ring. Now she can legally say we’re engaged,” Everly said.
“In my heart I knew the ruling would be in our favor,” Judkins said. “Everyone pulled together to make our dream come true.”
The couple, who have been together for 13 years, were hoping the state would not appeal the judge’s decision.
“I was hoping the judge would take a little longer and be sincere in his decision. Hopefully, the state of Indiana will know the judge did that and looked at everything and won’t appeal,” Everly said.
The Indiana attorney general’s office filed a request for an emergency stay of the ruling and filed a notice of appeal with the federal appellate court in Chicago.
The stay request said it was premature to require Indiana to change its definition of marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue.
Indiana law has defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Attorneys for the state argued that the Legislature has legal authority to determine how marriage is defined within Indiana’s borders.
Federal courts across the country have recently struck 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.
“Indiana now joins the momentum for nationwide marriage equality and 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, said in a statement Wednesday.
Cory Soller and his partner, Jay Will, celebrated their 15th anniversary together on Friday.
The two plan to marry soon at the LaPorte County Courthouse in Michigan City, where they live. Soller said Will was tied up at work all day Wednesday and may not have even known about the ruling.
“Here in Indiana, I didn’t think it would be that great of a possibility because of the conservative politics of the state,” said Soller, 37, who works in health care in Valparaiso.
For Soller and Will, 39, who works in retail management in Michigan City, being able to get married is about practical things, like transfer of property and Social Security benefits after one of them dies.
“That’s the kinds of things we were looking at. It’s planning for the future,” he said. “The things you’ve achieved, you’ve achieved together, and you want to make sure they belong to the other person.”
Soller expects he and Will to wed at the courthouse and then go out for beer with friends, or have cocktails on their deck.
“For me and Jay, I know it’s not about the spectacle, but about being legally recognized as a couple,” he said.
In Porter County, Clerk Karen Martin said after researching the matter that her office would issue marriage licenses to gay couples if they request it.
Dawn Carver, 41, and Pam Eanes, 50, of Munster, also were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They’ve been together for 17 years and have a civil union in Illinois that was not recognized in Indiana. Carver is a patrol officer for the Oak Park Police Department in Illinois and Eanes is a captain in the Calumet City Fire Department. They could not immediately be reached for comment.
A movement to add a gay marriage ban to the Indiana constitution faltered during this 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.
Sandler said Wednesday’s ruling is important for both legal and social reasons.
“It’s important from the perspective of dignity, human rights and the fact that our children know their parents are married. That’s what’s really special, along with the benefits everyone deserves,” Sandler said.
“The children can grow up knowing their family is as equal as their neighbors,” Sandler said.