Crowds line up to hear federal gay marriage appeal

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The legal skirmish over same-sex marriage shifted Tuesday to a federal appeals court in Chicago, where nearly 200 people lined up hoping to hear arguments in a case challenging gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Attorneys general in both states are trying to reinstate bans that were ruled unconstitutional in June. The outcome of the case also could directly affect hundreds of couples who were married after federal judges overturned the bans but before their rulings were put on hold pending appeal.

Many of those couples and their supporters hoped to hear arguments Tuesday, with some lining up outside the 25th-floor courtroom as early as 5 a.m. Among them was Ruth Morrison, a retired Indianapolis Fire Department battalion chief. She noted that because Indiana won't recognize the woman she married in another state as her wife, she wouldn't be able to pass on pension and other benefits if she dies.

"Now Indiana tells us our promises are only good if our spouses are of the opposite sex," Morrison, wearing a fire department uniform, said during a rally ahead of the hearing Monday night.

Lawyers representing both states, along with attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, a national group working for gay rights, are allotted 20 minutes each to argue their case before a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court announced Tuesday morning that the judges hearing the case are Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan; Ann Claire Williams, a Bill Clinton appointee; and David Hamilton, appointed by President Barack Obama. It's unclear when the court might issue a ruling.

Gay marriage is currently legal in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia, and momentum is building for more states to recognize it. Advocates have won more than 20 court victories around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage in 2013.

A voter-approved constitutional amendment bans gay marriage in Wisconsin. State law prohibits it in Indiana. Neither state recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's ban in February, while Lambda Legal filed its lawsuit challenging Indiana's ban in March. The lawsuits raised similar arguments on behalf of several gay and lesbian plaintiffs, contending that the bans violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection guarantee.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down Wisconsin's ban on June 6, and more than 500 gay and lesbian couples got married before Crabb put her ruling on hold a week later pending an appeal by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

In Indiana, U.S. District Judge Richard Young threw out the state's prohibition on June 25. Hundreds of couples in that state got married before the 7th Circuit stayed his ruling two days later.

Van Hollen and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, both Republicans, have raised similar arguments. They say their states have the authority to set marriage standards, and that the federal government should defer to them.

Van Hollen noted that Wisconsin has traditionally defined marriage as a union between a man and woman. Zoeller has maintained that his state has a legitimate interest in promoting traditional marriage as a means of encouraging environments where biological parents raise their children.

"There is no due process or equal protection right to have one's out-of-state same-sex marriage recognized at home, and no due process or equal protection right to same-sex marriage outright," Zoeller's attorneys argued in a recent court filing.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal have essentially reiterated their equal protection arguments in appeals court filings, arguing that the bans deny gay couples state and federal legal protections and benefits that married straight couples enjoy.

"The freedom to marry is a core aspect of personal liberty for all Americans," the ACLU said in its briefs.


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  1. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.