June 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Court strikes down Indiana ban on same-sex marriage
gavel, gay news, Washington Blade, justice

A federal court in Indiana has struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage (Photo by Bigstock).

A federal court in Indiana struck down on Wednesday the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, affording another win in the unbroken string of victories to supporters of marriage equality in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.

In a 36-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard Young, a Clinton appointee, ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to 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 writes. “In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage — not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

Young doesn’t include a stay in his ruling and makes clear his order will take effect on the same day the decision was handed down, allowing same-sex couples to wed in Indiana immediately.

The court draws heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against DOMA, determining that like the federal law, the state ban on same-sex marriage was motivated out of animus.

“The State’s laws place same-sex marriages in a second class category, unlike other marriages performed in other states,” Young writes. “Thus, like the Supreme Court in Windsor, this court can conclude that this law is motivated by animus, thus violating the Equal Protection Clause.”

But the state plans to fight the decision. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who’s known for his social conservative views, and Attorney General Greg Zoeller are already making plans for a stay and to appeal.

Bryan Corbin, a Zoeller spokesperson, said the court decision is under review, but made clear the state doesn’t intend to allow the decision to stand.

“The Indiana Attorney General’s Office is analyzing the Court’s rulings in the multiple cases and will communicate with county clerks on proper marriage license procedures they should follow in order to avoid chaos during the appeal,” Corbin said. “The Attorney General’s Office previously announced it will file an appeal in the event of such a ruling, and will quickly ask for a stay of today’s ruling pending appeal.”

But same-sex couples are already marrying in Indiana. According to the Indianapolis Star, Craig Bowen and Jake Miller, who’ve been together eight years, were the first couple in the state to obtain their marriage license and marry. They wed in Indianapolis.

Marion County Clerk Beth White reportedly said she’ll issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the day of the decision in her Indianapolis office until 8 p.m.

The ruling was the result of four separate legal challenges before the court. Young ruled Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in the cases of Fujii v. Pence and Lee v. Pence. In the case of Baskin v. Bogan, Young instead of ruling outright technically granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff same-sex couples. 

In the remaining case, Love v. Pence, the court ruled in favor of the state because the judge found Indiana Gov. Mike Pence wasn’t the appropriate defendant.

The Baskin case was filed on March 10 by the LGBT group Lambda Legal on behalf of five same-sex couples in Indiana and three minor children of two of the couples. Four of the couples weren’t married; another couple was seeking recognition of their marriage.

The court had already ordered Indiana to recognize of the out-of-state same-sex marriage of that couple: Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler. Quasney, who is raising two infant children with Sandler, has been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.

Paul Castillo, staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said his organization is “thrilled” the court decided to extend the protections it afforded to Quasney and Sandler to other same-sex couples seeking marriage rights in Indiana.

“As Chief Judge Young recognized, these families, and so many others across the state, suffer significant harm when they are wrongly denied the freedom to marry the one unique person they love,” Castillo said. “Indiana now joins the momentum for nationwide marriage equality and Hoosiers can now proclaim they are on the right side of history.”

In a statement, Sandler echoed the sense of happiness with the court decision, saying the ruling represents “an awesome day” for Indiana.

“We are grateful that Judge Young concurs with recent court opinions and that he sees beyond our situation,” Sandler said. “Now, along with Niki and I, all couples in Indiana have the freedom to marry. We are especially happy for our children because they’ll be growing up in state that values all families equally.”

Unlike many other states, Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage is statutory, not part of the state constitution. An attempt to pass a constitutional amendment in the Republican-led state legislature and send it to the voters for approval on the ballot failed this year.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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