What's the next legal steps from the Indiana same-sex marriage ruling

It’s expected that the Indiana Attorney General will appeal Wednesday’s decision to end a ban on same-sex marriage. If that happens, couples may have to wait a little longer.

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 3:07 p.m.

For the first time, Indiana’s same-sex couples can now get married here in their home state. 

When the decision was made Wednesday, June 25, eyes across the nation turned to Indiana. Now many are wondering what comes next? 

Looking forward, the ruling that was issued Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young, will join the legal surge that is filling federal appeals courts. This case and others will likely be packaged with a case that will move before the Supreme Court. 

In his ruling, Young wrote, “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.”

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.

Paul Castillo, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal, anticipates that the state will file an appeal to Young’s decision. Lambda Legal has filed suits against the state of Indiana on behalf of several same-sex couples.

Courts across the country have overturned similar bans but the fact that Young did not issue a stay sets Indiana apart. 

A stay would have put a hold on Wednesday’s ruling, meaning any marriages issued by the county clerk’s office would have to stop immediately. Couples have a short window to get married before a stay is likely enacted — Lambda Legal expects that window to close quickly.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, same-sex couples could marry without any delay and Indiana agencies must extend equal benefits to all those now-married couples. 

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson said her office is awaiting guidance from the state attorney general’s office. Marriage licenses will not be issued to same-sex couples in Elkhart County unless officials are instructed to do so..

Castillo believes it is possible that the Supreme Court will ultimately hear the case. There are currently cases before the federal appeals court that are deciding the same question, such as the one in Utah that was heard today. 

Since the historical Windsor v. United Sates Supreme Court case, every court that has considered the question of same-sex marriage and equal protection has struck down bans, calling them unconstitutional. 

"It is an evolving consensus that states cannot deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry,“ says Castillo. “Today’s decision in Indiana joins the momentum across the country.”

Lambda Legal has stated that they will be prepared to respond to any appeal that is filed and will protect the decision of Young.

“Today’s ruling is further proof that bans on marriage equality like the one struck down in Indiana today cannot withstand judicial review,” Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow said in a press release. “Where you live should never determine whether or not you can marry the person you love, and today we congratulate the plaintiffs and their attorneys with Lambda Legal, the law office of Barbara Baird, and Kirkland & Ellis LLP for bringing America one step closer to nationwide marriage equality.” 

According to an HRC press release, there are five federal appeals courts who are “presiding over 11 marriage equality cases over the coming weeks and months. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, no state marriage ban has survived a federal court challenge. Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.”


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