June 25, 2014. Remember the date.
On that day, U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that Indiana’s law banning same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
"Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana," Young wrote. "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."
Every neighborhood in every Indiana town probably includes lesbians or gays, living in committed relationships. But their home state refused to extend them the same recognition, the same legal benefits, that it gladly bestowed on any other couple.
On June 25, 2014, a federal judge ruled they no longer had to live as second-class citizens.
Every neighborhood in every Indiana town probably includes lesbians or gays, young and old, who fell in love just like anyone else. But their home state lawmakers made it clear, by proposing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, that Indiana scorns anyone who isn’t straight.
On June 25, 2014, a federal judge told them they no longer had to live in the margins of Indiana society.
Clerks in Marion, St. Joseph, Hamilton, Boone, Hendricks, Johnson and Monroe counties immediately began issuing marriage licenses. Others, like Wendy Hudson in Elkhart County, hesitated. She preferred to wait for an opinion on Young’s ruling from the Indiana attorney general’s office.
Withholding licenses from same-sex couples Wednesday afternoon was “for their protection and mine,” Hudson told an Elkhart Truth reporter. “Because if I were to issue one and it would turn out that I shouldn’t have then it will be an invalid marriage license.”
By no small coincidence, Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced that he planned to “quickly” ask Young to stay Wednesday’s ruling so the state could appeal.
Zoeller issued an opinion late Wednesday afternoon, about 10 minutes before most clerks’ offices typically close, and Elkhart County issued two same-sex marriage licenses.
The window for same-sex couples to file for marriage licenses may indeed close quickly. But they deserve the opportunity to wed as anyone else, at least until the court issues a stay.
Young ruled that Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the 14th Amendment. A federal appeals court in Denver struck down a similar law in Utah for the same reason on the same day. The Supreme Court could hear a marriage ban case as soon as its 2014 term begins this fall.
But no matter what happens next, on June 25, 2014, a federal judge declared that the equal protection clause applies to same-sex couples in Indiana — and that makes it a day to remember.