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Gay couples' Indiana celebration could be derailed

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Gay newlyweds pushed back Thursday against a legal move that would cast their marriages into limbo the day after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Supporters filed court documents asking U.S. District Judge Richard Young to deny the attorney general's request to put the ruling on hold while the state appeals. The ruling, which immediately took effect after it was issued Wednesday afternoon, deemed the state law unconstitutional.

Couples looking to marry seemed undeterred by the legal wrangling as they waited in a line stretching onto the sidewalk outside the Marion County clerk's office before it opened Thursday morning. Officials said 186 same-sex couples were wed there Wednesday after the office stayed open late to accommodate the influx of couples. Another 56 were married Thursday before noon.

It's unclear whether those marriages would be recognized if Young puts his order on hold. Similar rulings have been made in several states, and the issue is expected to eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Indiana case, the national gay rights group representing several couples suing the state filed court documents asking that Young allow his ruling to stand.

Lambda Legal argued that putting the ruling on hold would be unfair to gay couples, especially a lesbian couple already granted an exception to the prohibition because one has a terminal illness. Young has ordered the state to list Amy Sandler as the spouse of Niki Quasney, who is dying of ovarian cancer.

"The duration of an appeal likely would prevent Niki, Amy and their children from experiencing the dignity and comfort of a legal marriage as the family struggles with the agony, stress, grief and uncertainty families confront as a parent and beloved spouse battles cancer," the group's attorneys wrote. "Niki, Amy and their children do not have the luxury of time."

The Indiana Attorney General's Office asked Young to stay his order late Wednesday, arguing that it was "premature to require Indiana to change its definition of marriage" while it appeals the ruling.

Legal experts predict that Young will rule within a week.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Since then, 16 federal judges have issued rulings siding with gay-marriage advocates, though many of those are being appealed.

Regardless of what Young decides in Indiana, local gay-rights supporters say his ruling was an important step forward.

"The reason things are changing is because we're out, and because people are getting to know us because we're out there and we have normal lives and normal families," said Melody Layne, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging Indiana's ban. Layne married her partner, Tara Betterman, in New York, and they have a daughter.

Indiana law challenged by the lawsuits defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The state also had refused to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal, but Young ordered the state to recognize such unions and to allow same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, receive pension benefits and have their partners listed as spouses on death certificates.

Young said Indiana's ban on gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause and bucked the tide of history, citing similar rulings in other federal court districts.

"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," Young wrote.

The ruling sent couples flocking to clerks' offices across the state in a quest for marriage licenses, but not all were successful. Some counties declined to issue licenses until they received guidance from the attorney general's office.

That guidance, which came late Wednesday afternoon, instructed the five counties named in the lawsuits to comply with Young's order or face contempt of court. It urged the other 87 counties to "show respect for the judge and the orders that are issued."

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, called Wednesday an "excellent, excellent day for marriage" in Indiana. The ACLU also represented several couples who challenged the ban.

"Marriage is, in many ways, the most conservative institution in human society. It's the way we bind ourselves — forever — to someone we love," Falk said.

Opponents said they had feared the day when judges would issue rulings that trumped state laws enshrining marriage as between one man and one woman.

"Regardless of what any judge says, marriage is about uniting men and women together for the best interests of children and society," American Family Association of Indiana Executive Director Micah Clark said in a statement.

 

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  • Chris
    Who is having their rights infringed by this ruling. Marriage by the state is a CIVIL, not religious institution. Any faith is free to limit religious marriage by any qualifications it deems for under its religious dogma. What this ruling does remove the state's discrimination against consenting and competent unrelated adults from marrying someone they want to live in a life in a life partnership with. Churches are free to discriminate, the state's ability to do so is severely constricted by our Constitution.
  • @Alex
    No, I believe they merely demand the right to marry the consenting adult of their choosing. The same as any heterosexual. And that union be treated equal to any other union. While I may not choose to marry someone the same gender as me, I fail to see how we can possibly justify preventing others from choosing to do so. Those arguments have as much validity, in my eyes, as those used to support segregation back in the day.
  • Really?
    So Lee, you would rather gay people marry members of the opposite sex as in your daughters or sisters and live in the closet like people in the past have done living their whole lives in a lie? I wouldn't wish that on any person not even your children. From what I hear most parents that love their kids just want them to be happy.
  • @John Smith
    "Why do you feel these citizens should have less rights than you have?" I think Lee does not think that these citizens should have less rights than him. In fact he thinks they should have the same rights like him: marrying a person from the opposite gender. While Lee seems to be happy with this right, these citizens want different rights: the right to marry somebody from the same gender.
    • Nice one Susan
      In fact, married gay couples and not married do get divorced , break up, with kids, without them, etc. Which of course makes them the same as heterosexuals...I saw a comedian once who said he supported gay marriage because he believed that gay people had the right to be as miserable as heterosexuals...hehehe...may we all live happily ever after...
    • Straight and Married
      The 1st Amendment trumps any argument that religion in any way should limit the laws of the land. The 14th amend trumps any argument that some people should be treated differently than others. How would that work? Would gay folks be considered 3/5th of a person? 4/5ths? No the 14th Amendment kicks that kind of treatment out.
    • Baffling comment, Lee
      Hmmm...Nietzsche once said, "The last Christian died on the cross". While I find that comment a little too fatalistic for my taste, when I read Lee's comment, I am starting to wonder if it isn't true...those who protest the most seem to know the least about the Bible, the Constitution, The Founders, History. "That is why we have freedoms in this country, we can voice our beliefs and stick to them"...and yet you would censure other American citizens, and limit their rights, because they see things differently...how anyone can actually read the Bible, or the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and interpret them in such a way is indeed baffling...perhaps Lee is simply a provocateur, trying to stimulate conversation...so be it...if he is authentic, I shall not change him...and he certainly shall not change me...
      • History lesson
        Look again Lee. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution, or in the Bill of Rights, about marriage for straight people either. But the 14th amendment is pretty clear when it states that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." Not citizens of a particular sexual orientation or citizens of a particular race or gender, but all citizens.
      • Marriage, divorce, alimony, child support
        I don't think this "marriage" thing has been completely thought out. It sound exciting and new. But the downside to "marriage" is that some folks, straight or gay, may eventually get a divorce, seek alimony and child support. Has any of this been given consideration?
        • No longer "partners - use the terms "spouse," "wife," and "husband."
          Just a friendly heads-up to the IBJ and others: Once legally married, the term is no longer "partner." As in all marriages, the individuals are spouses, wives, and husbands. Thanks.
        • Citizens
          Lee, If they are citizens of this country, they do not need this special constitution to which you are referring, so once again your argument makes no sense.
        • Wrong Lee
          Read (and understand) the 14th Amendment. No one is trying to convince of anything. If you don't agree, don't marry someone of the same sex as John says. The bigger issue for you is why do you care so much about what other people -- likely complete strangers to you -- do in their personal lives and which will have no impact on you? Why?
        • To Lee
          Lee, that is fine that you have your own code of conduct. No one is forcing you to marry someone of the same sex. Why do you feel these citizens should have less rights than you have?
        • what next
          What next, I hope that this is stopped for good. There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights for Marriage of gays. This does not mean that the straight people have to accept this if their moral and ethical and religious values and beliefs are against it. That is why we have freedoms in this country, we can voice our beliefs and stick to them. Sorry, you will never convince me this is ethical, moral, and religiously conscionable.

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