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Marriage ruling brings Indiana same-sex couples to the courthouse

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Together more than eight years, Craig Bowen and Jake Miller finally got to say “I do.”

The men made history June 25 when they became the first legally wed same-sex couple in Marion County. The pair went to the Marion County Clerk of the Court’s office shortly after a federal judge ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

“Hopefully (we’re) the first of many,” Bowen said, as a line for marriage licenses formed in the clerk’s office at the City-County Building in downtown Indianapolis.

Chief Judge Richard Young of theU.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana  issued his ruling Wednesday morning in four of the five challenges to Indiana’s marriage law. The chief judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the state’s law prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Young noted his decision is part of a historic change sweeping through the federal court system. U.S. District Courts are coming to the same conclusion that state laws banning same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution.

“It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love,” Young wrote in the ruling.

“In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as marriage – not as same-sex marriage.

Young granted summary judgment in part for the plaintiffs in Lee, et al. v. Pence, et al., 1:14-cv-00406;  Fujii et al. v. Pence, et al., 1:14-cv-00404; and Baskin, et al. v. Bogan, et al., 1:14-cv-0405.

“These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down street,” Young concluded. “The Constitution demands we treat them as such.”

He granted the state’s motion to dismiss the first lawsuit filed, Love, et al. v. Pence, 4:14-cv-00015, finding Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is not the proper defendant since his office does not directly issue marriage licenses or administer the marriage statute. The remaining lawsuit, Bowling, Bowling and Bruner v. Pence, et al., 1:14-cv-0405, was not included in the order.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, an attorney on the legal team for Lee, et al. v. Pence, et. al., 1:14-cv-00406, had just finished a deposition when a client called with the news.

"Am I happy? Oh, I am ecstatic,” Celestino-Horseman said.

The reaction was the same at the headquarters for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. The organization had filed Fujii, et al. v. Pence, et al., on behalf of several same-sex couples and their children.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana. “We’re very pleased the judge has issued the decision and glad Indiana is in the same position as all other states” that have struck down bans on same-sex marriage.

The gay rights organization Lambda Legal also hailed the decision, saying Young recognized that same-sex families across the state “suffer significant harm when they are wrongly denied the freedom to marry” the person they love.

Lambda Legal represented the plaintiffs in Baskin, et al.  v. Bogan, et al. The case accelerated the challenges to Indiana’s marriage law when Lambda Legal filed a motion for immediate relief on behalf of Nicki Quasney and her spouse, Amy Sandler. Quasney has terminal cancer and asked the court to order the state to recognize their Massachusetts marriage before she died.

Sandler said Young’s decision made June 25 an “awesome day” for Indiana.

Less than an hour after Young issued his ruling, Marion County Clerk Beth White announced her staff was trained and ready to begin offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Marion County. She also offered to conduct short civil ceremonies on a first-come, first served basis. White announced that her office would remain open until 8 p.m. Wednesday and will process marriage license applications for anyone in line by that time.

In just a few hours Wednesday, the Marion County Clerk's Office processed nearly 50 applications and conducted 31 civil ceremonies.

Other county clerks appeared uncertain what to do. Clerks in Tippecanoe and Knox counties were reported to have been refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The Indiana attorney general’s office said it would be filing an appeal with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as well as a motion to stay Young’s ruling pending appeal.

“Today’s ruling still is being studied and the Attorney General’s Office soon will advise county clerks who issue marriage licenses who were defendants – the State Department of Health, the Department of Revenue and the Indiana Public Retirement System – on what changes in procedure Chief Judge Young’s decision imposes upon them during the appeal,” said Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the Indiana attorney general.

The ruling from Indiana came on the same day as the first same-sex marriage ruling from an appellate court. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the 14th Amendment.

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long said he hoped the federal court would respect the marriage law in Indiana and other states by granting a stay to Young’s ruling. He also said the Supreme Court of the United States must issue a ruling to end the current chaos surrounding marriage laws.

“Either the U.S. Constitution protects traditional marriage or it doesn’t,” Long, R-Fort Wayne, said. “If it does, it is likely that the Court will leave the decision on traditional marriage to each state to decide for itself.”

Long, describing himself as a strong proponent of states’ rights, said he believes the definition of marriage should be left to the states.

Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath called for an end to the debate on marriage. He called the debate on “matters that should be left to personal choice” unnecessary, and he said judges and legislatures across the country were deciding they should not be involved with the issue of marriage.  

“In Indiana, we need to take heed of this change,” the Michigan City Democrat said. “We need to stop this debate now. It is pointless to continue.”

 

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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