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Critics: Indiana leads from wrong side in same-sex marriage cases

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Hundreds of supporters of same-sex marriage filled the east steps of the Indiana Statehouse on March 27, marking the conclusion of two days of high-profile arguments on the topic before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Motorist after motorist honked in solidarity, energizing waves of cheers from an expectant crowd that sensed a sea change. Public-opinion polls for the first time show a solid majority supports same-sex marriage, said Chris Paulsen, president of Indiana Equality Action.

“This is a great time in our history, as our country moves quickly away from discrimination and toward equality,” Paulsen told supporters on the Capitol steps.
 

marriagerally-9-1col.jpg Supporters of same-sex marriage filled the east steps of the Statehouse on March 27, including attorney Justin Gifford, above, who holds a sign proclaiming “Marriage is a constitutional right.” (IL Photo/ Eric Learned)

But Paulsen said Indiana is headed in the wrong direction. She called out Attorney General Greg Zoeller for taking a lead role in advocating against same-sex marriage: Indiana wrote or co-wrote amicus briefs signed by other states taking that position in the cases the high court heard.

“We need to turn that tide,” Paulsen said. “We do not want to be the state moving backward while everyone else moves forward.”

But Zoeller said in an interview he was duty-bound by the requirements of his office. “I still feel like it’s my obligation to defend the policy choices (of the Legislature) and the authority of the state.

“There are so many different voices in Indiana, and I can’t take a poll to see what I represent,” he said.

Indiana’s out-front leadership in support of traditional marriage had more to do with expertise gained in defending challenges to its marriage statutes than political preference, Zoeller said. “It wasn’t like we were looking for prominence. I’ve never gone out and spoken as a leader on the public policy side,” he explained.
 

zoeller-greg.jpg Zoeller

Indiana wrote the amicus brief joined by 16 other states in U.S. v. Windsor, 12-307, a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and co-authored with state attorneys from Virginia the brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry, 12-144, an appeal of a ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage.

Both those cases were left undefended by the attorneys general responsible, but whether

those who took up the fight have standing was a question raised by the justices.

Zoeller said he worried about U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arguing against DOMA, which President Barack Obama opposes, in the Windsor case.

Rather than defending statutes on merit, or opting not to, Zoeller wondered about the perception created when the Office of U.S. Attorney General took the unusual step of arguing against an act of Congress in Windsor. “Are we creating a new public view that the attorney general should use his own judgment?”
 

 

marriagerally-1-1col.jpg A demonstrator holds a sign promoting marriage equality during a rally in Indianapolis on March 27. (IL Photo/Eric Learned)

Indiana also took a lead in the cases in large part because Zoeller said Solicitor General Thomas Fisher has gained a reputation as a leader among the National Association of Attorneys General and his services are in demand.

According to information provided by the AG’s office, Indiana has authored or co-authored 22 federal court amicus briefs that other states joined since Zoeller took office in 2009. Indiana has joined 82 briefs authored by other states.

Fisher was at the U.S. Supreme Court for the Hollingsworth arguments on March 26. “On balance, my sense is that a proposition that adheres to traditional marriage seemed to have a pretty good day,” Fisher said after arguments concluded. “I don’t know that our side will win, but it seems unlikely we will lose based on the arguments.”

Zoeller said the arguments posited in the cases that marriage is a constitutional right contravene historical practice. If the justices agree, “It’ll be the first time we’ve ever heard this.”

Instead, marriage has always been treated as a licensing issue in Indiana and other states – Zoeller compared the process to that of getting a driver’s license – in which states have had the authority to set policies and restrictions.

Indiana Code 31-11-1-1 adopted in 1997 defines marriage as between a man and a woman. “A marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized,” the statute says.

Lifelong Hoosiers Paul Fischer and Dannie Chandler were joined together in a nonofficial union ceremony more than 20 years ago, and they were officially married in California in 2008 before Proposition 8 passed. Their marriage carries no legal weight in Indiana, though.

Chandler said he hopes it’s time the justices make a clear pronouncement and throw out barriers to same-sex marriage nationwide. “I don’t see how they can make it for one state and not make it for all states,” he said.

The Supreme Court did make a federal statement on marriage in 1967, invalidating laws on the books against interracial marriage in Virginia and 15 other states in the landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling. Indiana’s law barring interracial marriage had been repealed two years earlier.
 

Drobac-Jennifer.jpgDrobac

Jennifer Drobac, a professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, said a Supreme Court decision impacting same-sex marriage nationwide is possible, but unlikely. She believes the Proposition 8 case might be decided based on standing, but in the DOMA case, “I think there are enough votes there to decide the case on the merits.”

She envisions nullification of DOMA but justices leaving same-sex marriage up to the states. “It still causes huge problems in our nation,” Drobac said, because Indiana and other states with laws barring same-sex marriage could continue to disavow unions legitimately performed in another state.

“We live in a global society, and when we do not recognize the enactment and judgments of sister states in our republic, it causes huge confusion and disruptions,” she said.

Teaching family law or contract law classes at McKinney, Drobac said students have been compelled by the arguments, and opposition to same-sex marriage has diminished in recent years. “If you are truly conservative or libertarian and you believe in the freedom of contract, you have to believe that homosexual marriage should be permitted, and who is the state to interfere in this contract?”

Indiana’s stance against same-sex marriage might have long-term consequences, Drobac worries.

“It’s embarrassing what Indiana has done, and shameful, and I think in 50 years we’ll look back and say, ‘Ouch,’ but we’re not there yet,” she said. “These are century cases. … These are cases that will really define whether or not we take our Bill of Rights seriously, and whether we’re truly the land of liberty and freedom.”•

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  • jacobin leveller social engineering
    The misnamed gay marriage advocates are jacobin levellers. They seek to eliminate the distinction of the institution of marriage as such by equalizing it-- levelling it-- by raising up to its level homosexual partnerships. And yet society will suffer for this radical equalitarian agenda. The sans-culottes would have loved this too. Why now after thousands of years of Indo-European and nearly universal human culture does "marriage" need to be redifined? No good answer other than the vacuous shibboleth "equality" oft repeated yet again as another excuse for needless social engineering by self appointed experts in "law."

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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