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Assertion of state’s rights may not support same-sex marriage ban

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Indiana is contenting that states have the authority to define marriage, but the federal court and the ACLU of Indiana have given little merit to the state’s arguments for maintaining a ban on same-sex marriage.  

“The court agrees with Defendants that marriage and domestic relations are generally left to the states,” U.S. District Court for the Southern Indiana District Chief Judge Richard Young wrote in granting a same-sex couple’s motion for a temporary restraining order. “Nevertheless, the restrictions put in place by the state must comply with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection of the laws and due process.”

 Likewise, the ACLU of Indiana conceded the state has a legitimate interest in regulating and promoting marriage within constitutional bounds. However, the individual retains the right to choose his or her spouse.

Young granted the TRO for plaintiffs Amy Sandler and Nikole Quasney, who are parties in Baskin et al v. Bogan et al., 1:14-cv-0355, the challenge to Indiana’s marriage law filed by Lambda Legal. He ordered the state to recognize the Massachusetts marriage of Sandler and Quasney and, should Quasney lose her battle with ovarian cancer, the state will list Sandler as the surviving spouse on the death certificate.

Indiana argued against the TRO, in part, on the grounds that states have the authority to define marriage and the District Court opinions favoring recognition have misunderstood United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013). The state argues no one has the right to have his or her marriage recognized, but rather recognition is left to the states.

Young found that argument did not give the state a legitimate reason to deny an individual’s right to equal protection. He was also dismissive of the state’s interest in opposite-sex marriage as a way to ensure children are well cared for.

“…the court finds there will likely be insufficient evidence of a legitimate state interest to justify the singling out of same-sex married couples for non-recognition,” Young wrote. “The court thus finds that Plaintiffs have at least some likelihood of success on the merits because ‘the principal effect’ of Indiana’s statute ‘is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.’”

The ACLU of Indiana addressed the key arguments for banning gay and lesbian marriage in its motion for summary judgment on behalf of its clients in Midori Fujii v. Governor, State of Indiana, et al., 1:14-cv-00404.

Charging that Indiana’s marriage law is in violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, the ACLU asserted its clients have a fundament right to marry and have their marriages recognized by the state.

“The fundamental right to marry, like any fundamental right, is defined by the substance of the right itself, not the characteristics of the individuals asserting it,” the ACLU argued. “The plaintiffs seek the right to marry, a right long-recognized as fundamental. The fact that their identities or characteristics may be different from those individuals that have asserted the right previously does not change the fundamental right at issue.”

 
 

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