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Same-sex couples tell 7th Circuit Indiana’s marriage ban is discriminatory

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Plaintiffs challenging Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage filed their appellate brief with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals July 29, making their argument that the state’s marriage law violates their constitutional rights.

As ordered by the court, the plaintiffs from the three separate lawsuits that overturned Indiana’s marriage statute in the District Court worked together and filed one brief. They asserted prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying violates the 14th Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.

The brief states that Indiana’s marriage ban “deprives same-sex couples of equal dignity and autonomy in the most intimate sphere of their lives and brands them as inferior to other married couples in Indiana, denying them state and federal protections, responsibilities, and benefits, and inviting ongoing discrimination from third parties.

“This deprivation violates due process by infringing upon the fundamental right to marry, and it violates equal protection by treating same-sex and different-sex couples differently for no reason other than to impose second-class citizenship on a targeted group.”

The brief was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in Marilyn Rae Baskin, et al. v. Greg Zoeller, et al., the suit brought by the national gay rights organization Lambda Legal; Midori Fujii, et al. v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Revenue, et al., filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana; and Pamela Lee, et al. v. Brian Abbott, et al., brought by a legal team led by William Groth of Fillenwarth Dennerline Groth & Towe LLP.

National organizations and individuals supporting freedom to marry are expected to file amicus briefs in the coming days.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office has already filed its brief with the 7th Circuit.

Plaintiffs argued against the Indiana’s contention that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage. Describing the states’ rights argument as a “sleight-of-hand,” the plaintiffs maintained state laws cannot contravene constitutional rights.

Also, same-sex couples scoffed at the state’s procreation argument.

“While the State argues that marriage is a mere ‘regulation’ and ‘a means of enticing individuals whose sexual intercourse may produce children to enter voluntarily into a relationship that the government recognizes and regulates,’ this narrow definition cannot be reconciled with the autonomy protected by the State for those who choose to marry,” plaintiffs stated in their brief. “Married couples may have children, but they need not and often do not. Spouses need not pass a fertility test, intend to procreate, be of childbearing age, have any parenting skills, or account for any history of childbearing or support.”

Last week, the 7th Circuit set Aug. 26 as the date it will hear oral arguments for the case challenging Indiana’s marriage law and for the lawsuit against Wisconsin’s marriage ban.

Marilyn Rae Baskin, lead plaintiff in the Lambda Legal lawsuit, said the lawsuit has been a rollercoaster ride. She is impatient for a final decision and, describing supporters of same-sex marriage as being on the right side of history, said she is confused why Indiana is continuing to fight against same-sex marriage.

“Fill the potholes,” she admonished the state. “Take care of the budget, solve crime, work on education. This should be a non-issue. It’s discriminatory and that’s its only reason for existence.”




 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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