INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young struck down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates equal protection.
Wednesday’s ruling means gay couples who wish to get married and those who have been married out of state will be legally recognized. It further means that Indiana agencies must extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples.
Young has not yet issued a stay on this ruling, meaning that same-sex couples could marry immediately. Many legal professional expect a stay to be issued soon, halting marriages. Couples around the state have rushed to get married in what may be a short window.
Not all of Indiana’s county clerks immediately issued licenses to ready-to-marry couples. Elkhart and several others wanited on the official word from the attorney general. By the end of Wednesday, the Elkhart County clerk’s office had issued marriage licenses to two same-sex couples, and will continue to Thursday. The offices in Elkhart and Goshen open at 8 a.m.
Young said the state's ban violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause. The ruling was based on lawsuits from several Indiana gay couples.
According to the Associated Press, the Indiana attorney general's office says it will appeal. The case will likely come before the U.S. Supreme Court. It also wasn't immediately clear what impact Wednesday's ruling might have on a faltering movement to add a gay marriage ban into the Indiana Constitution.
Local reactions have been mixed in light of the historical decision.
"It is monumental,“ said Chad Crabtree, an Elkhart County resident who took part in anti-HJR 3 efforts earlier this year. ”I am just afraid that there will be a stay in the ruling. I am excited the state of Indiana is moving forward ... there are other bigger issues to worry about than someone’s intimate affair.
Grace Bible Church Pastor Mike Fisher did not share Crabtree’s enthusiasm.
"It is a sad day that our constitution is used in that way instead of protecting Christian principles, it is defending non-Christian principles,“ he said.
Lynn Young and her wife have been together for 18 years. The Elkhart County couple were legally married in October two years ago in Massachusetts. Prior to today Young and her wife were not actually considered married in the eyes of Indiana. Now, their marriage is recognized and validated as equal.
“We aren’t separate,” says Young. “We are just part of the collective folks who are married. It takes down a wall of separation that never needed to be there.”
Amy DeBeck, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart, has been working for this day for years. She recently worked with Freedom Indiana to overturn HJR 3. She was at lunch with colleagues when she received news of the ban being overturned and burst into tears.
"The tide is turning in the right direction,“ says DeBeck. ”I hope that as many licenses as possible get issued while the window is open. I understand that there are appeals that are going ot happen, but I hope that equal marriage is in Indiana to stay.”
DeBeck went onto say that she was sad but not surprised that Elkhart did not immediately issue marriage licenses.
Indiana legislators also had strong feelings regarding the ruling. State Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, stated that “Judge Young based his decision on a subtle, but faulty redefinition of the word marriage. He changed it to include something that is not marriage, which is same sex.“
Wesco hopes to see a stay issued with the ruling and expects to see the case reach the Supreme Court.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, felt that the issue belonged with the state. “Americans have seen their state laws overturned by the court, which is discouraging since state issues should be left to the voters to decide,” says Walorski.
Since the historical Windsor v. United Sates Supreme Court case in 2013, every court that has considered the question of same-sex marriage and equal protection has struck down bans, calling them unconstitutional.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Entry on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment