ELKHART — The courts are still weighing the legality of same-sex marriage in Indiana but, as Brandon Stanley sees it, the answer is clear cut.
The proprietor of New Paradigm Brewing Co. conducted 24 same-sex marriage ceremonies in the window of opportunity for such unions that followed the June 25 federal court ruling striking the state’s ban on such unions.
"I know what we did was right,“ he said.
Likewise, nearly a month later, another area advocate of same-sex marriage, Lynn Young, says the flurry of marriage ceremonies before the June 25 ruling was stayed two days later are legit. No matter that the legal fight continues.
"They’re real and true and have value,” said the Walkerton woman, who married her same-sex partner in Massachusetts in 2012, where same-sex marriage is legal.
NUMBERS AREN’T CRYSTAL CLEAR
It’s not crystal clear how many same-sex marriages took place in Elkhart County after the June 25 court decision.
A rep from Elkhart Superior Courts 1 and 2 estimated Thursday, July 17, that 25 to 30 licenses were issued to same-sex couples. A few even returned the licenses to be formally recorded following marriage ceremonies.
Stanley, a minister with Universal Life Church, conducted his 24 marriage ceremonies at New Paradigm in Elkhart, though he didn’t have details on where each couple came from.
“I was in a position where I could provide quick ceremonies without hassle because we all knew it was going to be short-lived,” he said.
One couple interviewed by The Elkhart Truth, Sarah Hunt and McKenzie Hill of Goshen, married June 25, the same day of the court ruling.
Beyond that, things get fuzzy.
Reps from Elkhart Superior Courts 1, 2 and 3, which handle marriages, don’t specifically track same-sex unions and there’s nothing in licenses that distinguishes heterosexual and same-sex marriages. The licenses have a place for the names of the bride and groom, and the same-sex couples had to decide whose name to put in each spot, according to the superior court rep.
Even so, advocates like Stanley and Young predict that same-sex marriage, legal and legitimate, is coming, even as the courts continue to wrangle.
"It’s inevitable that change is coming,” said Stanley. “It’s just a matter of when, how.”
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office appealed the U.S. District Court decision out of Indianapolis overturning the ban on same-sex marriage here. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago was scheduled to hold a hearing on the appeal Aug. 13, but that’s been canceled, the Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday.
‘REVEL IN IT’
Questions, many of them, remain. What of the same-sex marriages that occurred before the June 27 stay? Are those couples married or are they in some sort of legal limbo?
Gov. Mike Pence, citing the stay, announced July 9 the state wouldn’t recognize same-sex marriages as they relate to state government benefits, rights and services, like food stamps and the ability to file joint income tax returns, according to the Associated Press.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana considers the marriages legitimate. “These marriages were lawful and valid when they were entered into and we do not believe that they can be retroactively voided,” Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU here, said in a July 11 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Indiana ACLU reps don’t know that they can do anything to reverse Pence’s decision. But the letter to Holder asks his office to issue a statement offering federal recognition of the marriages, as done in similar circumstances in Utah and Michigan.
Legal arguments aside, Young says same-sex marriage advocates should “rejoice” that there was a moment when same-sex couples in Indiana could marry “and revel in it.”
She’s no legal expert, but she’s optimistic for the future. She never foresaw the sort of movement on the issue that occurred with the June 25 ruling.
“I think there’s going to be no stopping it now,” she said.