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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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  1. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  2. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

  3. She must be a great lawyer

  4. Ind. Courts - "Illinois ranks 49th for how court system serves disadvantaged" What about Indiana? A story today from Dave Collins of the AP, here published in the Benton Illinois Evening News, begins: Illinois' court system had the third-worst score in the nation among state judiciaries in serving poor, disabled and other disadvantaged members of the public, according to new rankings. Illinois' "Justice Index" score of 34.5 out of 100, determined by the nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice, is based on how states serve people with disabilities and limited English proficiency, how much free legal help is available and how states help increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, among other issues. Connecticut led all states with a score of 73.4 and was followed by Hawaii, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, respectively. Local courts in Washington, D.C., had the highest overall score at 80.9. At the bottom was Oklahoma at 23.7, followed by Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Indiana. ILB: That puts Indiana at 46th worse. More from the story: Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and Maine had perfect 100 scores in serving people with disabilities, while Indiana, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri and Idaho had the lowest scores. Those rankings were based on issues such as whether interpretation services are offered free to the deaf and hearing-impaired and whether there are laws or rules allowing service animals in courthouses. The index also reviewed how many civil legal aid lawyers were available to provide free legal help. Washington, D.C., had nearly nine civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty, the highest rate in the country. Texas had the lowest rate, 0.43 legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty. http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2014/11/ind_courts_illi_1.html

  5. A very thorough opinion by the federal court. The Rooker-Feldman analysis, in particular, helps clear up muddy water as to the entanglement issue. Looks like the Seventh Circuit is willing to let its district courts cruise much closer to the Indiana Supreme Court's shorelines than most thought likely, at least when the ADA on the docket. Some could argue that this case and Praekel, taken together, paint a rather unflattering picture of how the lower courts are being advised as to their duties under the ADA. A read of the DOJ amicus in Praekel seems to demonstrate a less-than-congenial view toward the higher echelons in the bureaucracy.

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