Lawsuit Challenges Indiana’s Definition Of Marriage
March 10, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Four Hoosier couples are challenging the state’s marriage law, saying it’s unconstitutional for Indiana to refuse to marry same-sex couples or recognize gay unions from other states.
The lawsuit – filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana – says the state law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.
The suit is similar to one in Kentucky, in which a federal judge ruled that the commonwealth must recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Friday that his office will defend the state’s marriage law.
“As state government’s lawyer, I must defend the state’s authority to define marriage at the state level within Indiana’s borders,” Zoeller said in a statement. “People of goodwill have sincere differences of opinion on the marriage definition, but I hope Hoosiers can remain civil to each other as this legal question is litigated in the federal court.”
The lawsuit is unrelated to efforts by the General Assembly to put the state’s definition of marriage – the union of one man and one woman – into the Indiana Constitution. Lawmakers approved the proposed constitutional amendment this year but it needs approval from the General Assembly again in 2015 or 2016 to go on the ballot for ratification.
However, even if the amendment were in place now, it would not be a defense against the lawsuit. That’s because it’s filed in federal court and challenges the law for violating the U.S. Constitution.
The plaintiffs in the suit include two females who are engaged and want to marry in Indiana, two males who want to be married in Indiana, two females who married in Massachusetts in 2008, and two females who married in New York last year.
Their suit says that Indiana “has no rational, legitimate, or compelling state interest in treating same-sex couples any differently from opposite-sex couples.”
It also claims that marriage is a fundamental right and that the U.S. Constitution requires it to be recognized across states.
“Same-sex spouses who have entered into legal marriages in other jurisdictions have a reasonable expectation that they will continue to be protected by the rights and protections conferred by marriage when they relocate to another state,” the suit said.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman and left it up to states to make decisions about the definition of a legal marriage.
Since then, a district judge ruled that Kentucky must recognize marriages in other states. Also, a federal court has ruled that an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. That ruling came one week after a similar ruling was made on a same-sex marriage ban in Utah.
Zoeller’s office has defended the state’s marriage law against legal challenges in state court. And the Indiana Attorney General’s Office was one of the lead authors of two amicus briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of other states’ laws defining marriage in a traditional way.