August 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Court: Indiana must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages
Mike Pense, Republican Party, Indiana, gay news, Washington Blade

A judge has reversed his position that Gov. Mike Pence was an incorrect defendant in a marriage case. (Photo public domain)

A federal court in Indiana ruled on Tuesday the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state despite the state’s ban on gay nuptials.

In a 12-page decision, U.S. District Judge Richard Young, a Clinton appointee, reverses himself from an earlier decision he made against plaintiff same-sex couples on the basis that they incorrectly named Gov. Mike Pence as a defendant.

Young explains that earlier decision was incorrect in the wake of Pence’s decision to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages after a previous ruling in favor of marriage equality.

“The memoranda issued by the Governor clearly contradict his prior representations to the court,” Young writes. “The Governor can provide the parties with the requested relief as was evident by his initial memorandum on June 25, 2014, and he can enforce the statute to prevent recognition as evident by his correspondence on June 27 and July 7.”

Young previously ruled against plaintiffs in this case in the same decision in which he ruled in favor of marriage equality as a result of four other lawsuits.

Now that Pence has been established as the appropriate defendant in the case, Young rules against Indiana’s prohibition on recognition of out-of-state gay nuptials on the basis that it’s consistent with his other rulings and because the statute violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Those other cases have been consolidated on appeal before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which is set to hear oral arguments in litigation seeking outright marriage equality in Indiana, as well as Wisconsin, on Aug. 26 — exactly one week after Young’s latest decision.

Young stays the decision in this latest case pending appeal to the Seventh Circuit, or until that appeals court makes a decision on the other cases seeking marriage equality.

The lawsuit, Bowling v. Pence, was filed by private attorneys on behalf of individuals representing two same-sex couples. Two of the plaintiffs are Michelle Bowling and Shannon Bowling, a Marion County, Ind. couple who married in Iowa in 2011 and want Indiana to recognize their union.

The remaining plaintiff, Linda Bruner, married last year, but is seeking the ability to dissolve her marriage with her spouse because of  irreconcilable differences.

The reversal of Young’s decision adds to the tally of more than 30 victories for supporters of same-sex marriage in the courts in anticipation of a final, nationwide ruling on marriage equality from the U.S. Supreme Court by the middle of next 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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