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Gay couples' lawyers object to full-court hearing

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Attorneys on either side of a lawsuit over Wisconsin and Indiana's overthrown gay marriage bans are wrangling over how many federal judges should hear the states' appeal, a technical issue that could make a big difference.

Those representing gay couples who want the bans overturned permanently in both Indiana and Wisconsin filed briefs on Monday arguing that a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is enough. They say three-judge panels in other districts have heard similar cases and at least one has rejected a similar motion for a full-court hearing.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller requested June 11 that the full, 10-member court hear the case, which lawyers call en banc review. Wisconsin made a similar move last week after the same federal appeals court had consolidated Indiana and Wisconsin's cases.

"En banc review would serve to provide the insights and judgment of 10 well-respected judges, rather than just three, which would benefit the judicial review process no matter the outcome," Indiana attorney general's office spokesman Bryan Corbin said in a statement Tuesday.

But according to a legal expert, a full-court review amounts to playing the odds.

"Your panel of three may or may not be representative of the whole court. There are going to be times when that happens," David Orentlicher, a professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said Tuesday.

Both states agree that the case should move rapidly through the legal process.

Hundreds of couples were married in Indiana from June 25, when U.S. District Judge Richard Young struck down the state's gay marriage ban, to June 27, when the 7th Circuit put the decision on hold. The sole exception to the appeals court stay in Indiana was an order for the state to recognize the out-of-state marriage of Amy Sandler and Nikole Quasney of Munster; Quasney is dying of ovarian cancer.

In Wisconsin, more than 500 couples got married after U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled June 6 that the ban was a violation of gay couples' equal protection and due process rights. Crabb put her ruling on hold a week later and there have been no marriages since.

Marriages in both states conducted in between when the bans were struck down and put on hold remain in legal limbo.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging the bans in both states, argues that the marriages are legal.

ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on July 11 asking him to issue a statement that the federal government will recognize the marriages as he did in Utah and Michigan, which would make Indiana's couples eligible for federal benefits for married couples.

Democratic members of Congress from Wisconsin made a similar request.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

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  1. Hello currently just withdrew from laporte county drug court and now I have lost the woman I love which also was in drugcourt and was put in jail without a,lawyer presentfor her own safety according to the judge and they told her she could have a hearing in two weeks and now going on 30days and still in jail no court date and her public defender talks like he,s bout to just sell her up the river.

  2. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  3. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  4. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  5. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

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