Same-sex marriage supporters, opponents react to court rulings
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org June 26, 2013 3:28PM
John Lewis, left, and Stuart Gaffney embrace outside San Francisco's City Hall shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Updated: July 30, 2013 7:44AM
The Supreme Court’s rulings on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 cases were cheered Wednesday by same-sex marriage supporters in Northwest Indiana, but it won’t stop opponents from seeking to ban gay marriage in the state constitution next year.
Munster resident Amy Sandler and her wife, Niki Quasney, were emotional as they watched the decision come down Wednesday.
“We were both in tears,” Sandler said. “It’s really tough to be at work on a day like today. I think it’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t directly impact Niki and me because the state of Indiana doesn’t recognize our civil union.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Viscosky, D-Merrillville, supported the court’s decisions in a statement.
“I support marriage equality for all couples and believe that every single American should be able to marry the person they love,” he said in the statement. “I believe that it is unfair that, under current law, same-sex couples are legally prohibited from taking advantage of the federal laws that provide financial and legal benefits to married couples. I believe that we can no longer allow the states to discriminate against same-sex marriages. Rather, I believe that the federal government should ensure that all consenting adults, no matter who they are or who they love, have the exact same marriage rights.”
While the ruling recognizes same-sex marriage for the purposes of federal benefits, it still allows states not to recognize a same-sex marriage or civil union conducted in a different state. Sandler said she realized the uphill battle the couple faced when it took several months just to get Quasney listed as the second parent for their second child.
“It’s strange that they will recognize my partner as the second parent but not my spouse, even though we’ve been together or 13 years,” Sandler said.
Indianapolis-based attorney Barbara Baird has helped families like Sandler and Quasney with adoption, wills and other issues. Baird said Indiana has its own mini-DOMA that prevents state benefits from being extended to same-sex couples.
State legislators will likely resume their efforts to ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution next year, even though the state already has a same-sex marriage ban on the books. After passing the amendment in the 2012 session, legislators were waiting on the Supreme Court’s decision before making their next move. The Indiana General Assembly must pass the amendment again, then it will be up for a voter referendum in November 2014.
Living Stones Church Rev. Ron Johnson Jr. has been active in the drive to pass a constitutional amendment and he was dismayed by the court’s reasoning.
“Proposition 8 was passed by a majority of people, but for an unelected body of judges to go against that twice flies in the face of the way this country was established,” Johnson, of Crown Point, said. “DOMA was passed by a majority of Congress and signed by President (Bill) Clinton, but Obama unilaterally said we don’t need to obey it. It’s anarchy and tyranny not to enforce laws. I guess democracy doesn’t matter anymore.”
Johnson said he was happy he ruling wasn’t more sweeping and the court left some decisions up to the states.
“It’s great on one level to send this back to states, but this is not going away,” Johnson said. “And from May to November next year Indiana will be the center of attention as it will be the first voter referendum since the ruling.”
Both Gov. Mike Pence and Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, reaffirmed the state’s commitment to passing the amendment next year.
“I am disappointed the federal Defense of Marriage Act has been overturned,” Bosma said in a statement. “The members of the General Assembly will be fully equipped to address the issue of the constitutional amendment in the coming legislative session, and with today’s decision, I am confident the matter will come before the General Assembly and ultimately be placed on a referenda ballot for voter consideration. As they have in 30 other states, Hoosiers should have the right to speak on this issue.”
But the chances for success in a voter referendum could be tricky as recent surveys can attest. In late 2012, Ball State University’s Bowen Center conducted its annual Hoosier Survey, which found that 45 percent of Indiana residents think that same sex couples should be allowed to marry, while 55 percent support civil unions. Fifty-four percent oppose a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in Indiana.