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 same-sex couples differently than couples of opposing genders.
"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 clerk in Marion County, home to Indianapolis, said the office will start issuing marriage licenses immediately.
Marion County Clerk Beth White said she will perform short, civil marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples who make a $50 donation to a group supporting gay and transgender youths.
White's office also is changing the wording of its online marriage license application from bride and groom to spouse and spouse.
U.S. District Judge Richard Young's ruling takes effect immediately. County clerks across the state were expected to begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples Wednesday.
Federal courts across the country have struck down gay marriage bans recently, but many of those rulings are on hold pending appeal. Attorneys on both sides of the issue expect the matter to land before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Indiana attorney general's office said it would appeal the ruling but declined further comment.
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.
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.
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.