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7th Circuit to hear Indiana same-sex marriage challenge

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Shortly after a federal judge ordered Indiana to recognize the marriage of one same-sex couple, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General continued its defense of “traditional marriage” by filing a notice of appeal with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. By doing so, it added to the list of appellate courts hearing challenges to state marriage laws.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller is appealing a preliminary injunction issued by Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana that prohibits the state from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage against Munster couple Nikole Quasney and Amy Sandler.

In addition, Zoeller has filed a motion to stay with the District Court to halt enforcement of the preliminary injunction until the 7th Circuit renders an opinion on the matter.

castillo-paul.jpg Castillo

The attorney general’s office expressed “sincere sympathy” for the plaintiffs but maintained the state’s marriage law does not allow for hardship exceptions.

“When plaintiffs’ lawyers sue the state and challenge its laws, the state is entitled to a defense in court,” said Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the attorney general’s office. “The Indiana Legislature, not the attorney general’s office, determines the marriage law in Indiana. As the state’s lawyer, the attorney general’s office has a legal duty to defend the laws of the state from lawsuits in the trial court and in any appeal, and the appellate courts ultimately will decide the case.”

Quasney and Sandler are among the plaintiffs in Baskin, et al. v. Bogan, et al., 1:14-CV-00355, the lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal which asserts Indiana’s ban on allowing same-sex couples in the state to marry and its ban on recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other states are unconstitutional.

Lambda Legal filed an emergency request on their behalf because Quasney is terminally ill with Stage IV ovarian cancer. Young initially issued a temporary restraining order then followed with the preliminary injunction, which will ensure that Sandler will be listed as the surviving spouse on Quasney’s death certificate if she dies in Indiana.

Young’s decision to issue the preliminary injunction did not surprise many. Just as he noted when he issued the temporary restraining order, Young said the plaintiffs have shown a “reasonable likelihood of success” based on the merits of their case.

Paul Castillo, the attorney for Lambda Legal who argued on behalf of Quasney and Sandler, called Young’s ruling a victory but pointed out the judge has not ruled on the “ultimate question” of whether Indiana’s marriage statute violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

States’ rights

Indiana does not appear to be slowing in its defense of the state’s marriage statute. Along with its appeal and the motion to stay the Quasney and Sandler decision, the state appeared before Young on May 2 to argue for summary judgment in Baskin, et al. v. Bogan, et al.

sanders-steve.jpg Sanders

Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor Steve Sanders said the Indiana attorney general’s office is taking this aggressive posture because it is “more concerned, at this point, with scoring points with social conservatives than about the dignity of a dying person.”

The AG’s office said the preliminary injunction would have been appealed by whichever party lost the decision. The state appealed to the 7th Circuit to keep its legal options open and to allow the process to continue in court so the legal questions can be resolved conclusively.

Along with its continued push in the Baskin case, Zoeller has filed a motion for summary judgment in the same-sex marriage challenge brought by the ACLU of Indiana, Fujii, et al. v. Pence, et al., 1:14-CV-00404.

Indiana argued, in part, that the Supreme Court of the United States decision in United States v. Windsor – which triggered the avalanche of same-sex marriage lawsuits across the country – actually preserved the states’ ability to define marriage as they see fit. The decision in Windsor held that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act violated the Fifth Amendment because it deviated from the tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage.

“First there is no doubt that the Constitution gives its blessing to New York to recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages,” Zoeller wrote in the brief supporting the motion for summary judgment. “… It is a considerable leap from this conclusion, however, to read Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of DOMA for discrimination against ‘basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect,’ to establish a singular vision of a fundamental right to marriage that must be respected by all States.”

The ACLU of Indiana dismissed that argument, maintaining SCOTUS prefaced the Windsor decision with a reference from Loving v. Virginia which held state laws regulating marriage cannot violate the Constitution.

“But the mere fact that the Court resolved the issue before it without unnecessarily invalidating numerous state statutes not before it does not mean that its rationale has no role to play in subsequent challenges to those statutes,” the ACLU asserted in its response.

Likewise, Castillo does not believe the states’ rights argument is convincing. He pointed out that Zoeller has maintained this line of reasoning in his amicus briefs and other amicus briefs filed across the country have made similar arguments, but they have all been rejected by every single court that has ruled on marriage laws.

Circuit courts

With Indiana’s filing, the 7th Circuit joins the 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th circuits in having appeals of same-sex marriage cases on its docket. The 4th and 10th circuits have heard oral arguments and recently, the 9th Circuit Court issued a stay preventing Idaho from performing gay marriages.

Sanders said a ruling from the 7th Circuit that upholds Young’s preliminary injunction is not certain, but the odds are in Lambda Legal’s favor. Namely because Young is a respected District judge, his decision can have a little more sway with the Circuit panel. Also, Young’s finding for Quasney and Sandler is not unique since federal judges in Ohio and Illinois have issued similar rulings regarding same-sex couples facing grave illnesses.

The 7th Circuit might have a hard time going counter to the wave created by District courts overturning marriage bans across the country, Sanders said.

Meanwhile, Young will continue to handle Baskin, et al. v. Bogan, et al. and the other four lawsuits challenging Indiana’s marriage statute. Castillo expects the judge will rule quickly on the state’s motion for a stay and that decision, too, will most likely be appealed to the 7th Circuit.•
 

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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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