More Gay Couples Tie The Knot
June 26, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Hundreds of same-sex couples have been married across Indiana since a federal judge struck down a state ban, but opponents remained hopeful he would stay the decision pending an appeal.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller requested the stay – which would stop county clerks from issuing marriage licenses – late Wednesday. But by 4:30 p.m. Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Young had not issued any decision and most counties – in both rural and urban areas – were issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
Still, Indiana University law professor David Orentlicher said the state’s “chances of getting a stay are pretty good.”
That could leave those couples who married after Young ruled Wednesday in limbo.
“The federal government will treat them as valid marriages for purposes of federal law,” Orentlicher said. “But we don’t know what it means for state laws. I think it is likely that the attorney general will say they are not valid marriages here.”
And the uncertainty could last for some time – at least until the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue, Orentlicher and other experts said Thursday.
That’s unlikely to happen before next year. A federal appeals court in Denver struck down the Utah ban on same sex marriage on Wednesday, which could clear the way for the nation’s highest court to consider the issue.
It’s one of 22 times that a federal court has ruled in favor of a gay marriage ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.
Already, 19 states have same sex marriage. In 11 of those, voters or state legislatures made the call. In eight others, judges ordered marriage open to same sex couples. In 12 other states, judges have issued rulings in favor of gay marriages but the decisions were stayed as they were appealed, according to the national group Freedom to Marry.
In its appeal, the state’s attorney general told the court that until the U.S. Supreme Court “determines that traditional marriage laws such as Indiana’s are unconstitutional, it is premature to require Indiana to change its definition of marriage” and abide by Young’s ruling on Wednesday.
But Ken Falk, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case, said the state may not be successful in its bid for a stay.
“The state would have to show that they’re likely to win the case and there would be a great deal of harm,” Falk said. “We just don’t think they can satisfy their burden that they have the likelihood of any success.”
But even the possibility of a stay led many same sex couples to head to local courthouses to get married in Indiana right away.
Megan Haney and Victoria Manzano came to the City-County Building in Indianapolis on Thursday to get a marriage license. Manzano said the pair wanted to get a license before a possible stay.
“That’s why we are doing it so fast,” she said.
But if it comes and their marriage isn’t recognized, Manzano said they’ll “have to fight harder.”
“We’ve been fighting pretty hard anyway,” Haney said. “So its not going to change anything and our love will stay the same.”
By mid afternoon Thursday, more than 370 couples had obtained marriage licenses in Marion County and 286 had been married. More than 50 had obtained licenses in Allen County with about two-thirds of those couples already married. And in St. Joseph County, about 30 gay couples had obtained licenses.
“We don’t know what will happen if and when the court issues a stay. So, what we are going to do is continue to issue licenses and perform ceremonies until the court orders us to do something different,” said Marion County Clerk Beth White.
“But we aren’t concerned because at this point we believe we are strongly within our rights to be issuing licenses and until we are ordered to do something different we are going to continue,” she said.
Courthouses in more rural areas were granting licenses to gay couples as well, although the traffic was far lighter. An employee at the clerk’s office in Harrison County said it was to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple but there had been no requests. The Orange County clerk, meanwhile, had issued just one license to a gay couple.
Falk said he understands that some court clerks may want to consult an attorney before moving forward with same-sex marriage licenses and said he’s pleased most have been taking appropriate steps to issue them.
In some counties, the forms used for marriage licenses don’t accommodate same sex couples. In Shelby County, officials were telling couples to cross out “male” and “female” and write in “applicant one” and “applicant two.”
“It will be smoother by this time tomorrow,” Falk said. “I don’t think things have been that unsmooth.”
But a few counties were still refusing to grant same sex licenses. Falk said if that continues, the ACLU will contact county attorneys “and see what the deal is.”
Meanwhile, Brian Powell, an Indiana University professor of sociology, said the court decision could push more Hoosiers to support same sex marriage.
“With so many people making the decision to get married immediately after the court decision, it sends a message to people, especially those who didn’t realize how powerful a (court) decision like this could be,” he said.
Powell has conducted several nationally representative surveys of Americans’ opinions of family and same-sex marriage, beginning in 2003, and has watched support for same-sex unions grow 2 percent to 2.5 percent a year. He described that as surprisingly speedy for such a controversial social issue, but he predicts it’s a trend that will continue as the public watches more marriages take place.
“From these ceremonies, they hear about love, commitment and responsibility,” Powell said. “And that reminds them of why they got married.”