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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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