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By DONALD STEEN and VINCE LUECKE
The Perry County News
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana has joined a growing number of states attaining marriage equality following a decision Wednesday by Federal District Judge Richard Young. He ruled that defining a marriage as between one man and one woman violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The ruling involved lawsuits from several couples who joined the state in requesting a summary judgment on the case.
In response to the decision, which in effect overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, local county clerks began issuing licenses. In Perry County, the first license was issued Thursday. Two other couples filed Thursday and Friday.
Clerk Jean Schulthise said the computer program into which data is input had yet to be updated to allow two people of the same gender to file. A software fix was expected, but in the meantime application forms were printed and changed by hand.
Schulthise said the county’s circuit court approved of the alteration in light of last week’s federal-court ruling.
Rachel Decker and her partner, Stephanie (Sanders) Decker, filed for a license application Thursday morning. Together nine years, they held a commitment ceremony seven years ago but said they were among many couples wanting full marriage recognition.
They considered getting married in Illinois, which began offering same-sex marriages earlier this year, but felt they wanted to wed in their home state.
Stephanie said she thought it would be at least two years before same-sex marriage was recognized in Indiana and said they were happy about the ruling and the freedom and sense of security marriage gives to couples like themselves.
“I cried some yesterday,” she admitted.
While one lawsuit against Gov. Mike Pence was dismissed, Young’s decision was solidly in favor of the marriage-equality camp. The ruling likened the cause for marriage equality to yesteryear’s legal clashes over interracial marriage, denying that homosexual-marriage proponents are seeking any new rights, merely the same rights enjoyed by heterosexuals.
Judge Young also dismissed arguments stating that Indiana’s marriage laws are based on the principle of procreation. As Indiana permits the marriage of first cousins so long as both parties are over the age of 65 and unable to have children, Young ruled that it was inconsistent for the state to deny homosexual marriages based on that capacity for offspring.
As Young has not issued a stay on the ruling, a flurry of accolades and apprehensions poured forth as homosexual marriages were permitted to commence immediately. It did not take long before couples in Indianapolis officially joined together in marriage with the Marion County clerk’s office issuing marriage licenses to affirm their new status. Many courthouses elsewhere in the state were not immediately able to proceed on the matter as applications for marriage licenses have not been updated. Authorization for such changes will ultimately have to come from the state government, which is still mulling its position moving forward.
County clerks have been asked to respect the federal court’s decision and adhere to the legal system of the country. However, guidance from the state also comes with potential complications as the ruling goes to a federal appeals court.
The Indiana attorney general’s office has announced that it is currently reviewing the decision and will help direct courthouses on the issue. Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced that he plans to request a stay on the ruling pending appeal.
Earlier this month a similar effort to stay a federal judge’s ruling on marriage equality in Wisconsin was rejected. For the moment, county officials in Wisconsin make decisions on homosexual marriage until an appeal on the matter is settled.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Indiana Attorney General’s office contends that the matter of marriage definition solely lies in the province of state legislatures.
According to Gov. Pence’s spokeswoman, Kara Brook, “Gov. Pence supports the Attorney General’s efforts to appeal the federal court’s ruling and defend Indiana’s right to define the institution of marriage for the residents of our state. Because the governor believes in the rule of law, the state of Indiana will comply with the federal court’s order as this case moves through the appeals process.”
While the legal and popularly held definitions of marriage is likely to remain a major flashpoint in Indiana and across the country, proponents of marriage equality have seized upon the June 25 ruling as a major victory.
Young himself offered support for homosexual equality, saying in his conclusion, “It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. 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.”