Gay Marriage Victories in Utah and Indiana
The pro gay marriage movement won court victories in Indiana and Utah on June 25, 2014. A federal judge struck down Indiana’s gay marriage ban, and a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that had overturned Utah’s gay marriage ban.
In Indiana, US District Judge Richard Young found that the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the equal protection clause in the US Constitution. Young wrote in his decision that “In time, Americans will look at the marriage of [same-sex] couples… 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.”
The issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples began almost immediately in several Indiana counties, while other counties held off on issuing licenses, waiting for further guidance. Marion County Clerk Beth White said in a statement that the judge’s ruling was sufficient: “Judge Young’s decision on marriage equality sets forth a clear course of action for this office to follow regarding same-sex marriage licenses. It is my responsibility to uphold court rulings that impact this office and that is what I will do.” White’s spokesperson, Erin Kelley, reported that hopeful couples arrived at the clerk’s office within ten minutes of the ruling’s announcement. “It has been a whirlwind,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
The immediate future of gay marriage in Indiana is unclear, since the state attorney general’s office said it would appeal Judge Young’s decision and will ask for a stay on the ruling.
Meanwhile, the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal appellate court to declare that a state cannot prevent gay couples from getting married. A three judge panel found Utah’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, stating: “We hold that the 14th Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marriage rights laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.” However, the court issued an immediate stay to its own ruling, pending further appeals.
Utah’s ban had previously been struck down by US District Judge Robert J. Shelby on Dec. 20, 2013, a decision which led to more than 1,300 same-sex couples being married in the state before the US Supreme Court stayed the ruling on Jan. 6, 2014. Now that the state’s appeal has been denied, Utah officials can either appeal to the full bench of the 10th Circuit, or appeal directly to the US Supreme Court.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a pro gay marriage organization, celebrated both decisions. Of the Utah ruling, the group’s president Chad Griffin stated: “Today’s decision affirms what we all know to be true – the U.S. Constitution guarantees the basic civil rights of all Americans, not just some. Utah’s ban on marriage equality does nothing to strengthen or protect any marriage. Instead, it singles out thousands of loving Utah families for unfair treatment simply because of who they are. Our Constitution does not allow for such blatant discrimination.”
Gay marriage opponents expressed disappointment in the two rulings. Utah’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch (R), stated: “Although I am not surprised by today’s decision, I disagree with the court’s reasoning and hope the Supreme Court ultimately adheres to the original understanding of the Constitution and allows each state to define marriage for itself.” Bishops representing the Roman Catholic Church in Indiana responded to the Indiana ruling: “…the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage as a natural union established by God between one man and one woman, intended towards the establishment of a family in which children are born, raised, and nurtured… Today’s decision by Richard L. Young… to redefine the institution of marriage as an emotional partnership between two consenting adults regardless of gender ignores this fundamental and natural truth of marriage and opens its definition to the whims of public opinion.”
Both rulings came a day before the first anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.
Tim Evans, “What It Means: Questions about Same-Sex Marriage Ruling,” indystar.com, June 25, 2014
Fox 59 (Indianapolis), “Federal Judge Rules Indiana’s Ban on Gay Marriage Unconstitutional,” fox59.com, June 25, 2014
Jessica Glenza, “Indiana’s Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down by Federal Judge,” theguardian.com, June 25, 2014
Bill Mears, “Utah Appeals Court Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban in Major Ruling,” cnn.com
Michael Muskal, “Federal Appeals Court Overturns Utah’s Ban on Gay Marriage,” latimes,com, June 25, 2014
Javier Panzar, “Judge Strikes Down Indiana’s Ban on Gay Marriage,” latimes.com, June 25, 2014
Nicholas Riccardi and Brady McCombs, “Appeals Court: States Can’t Ban Gay Marriage,” ap.org, June 25, 2014
Daniel Wallis, “U.S. Courts Back Gay Marriage in Utah, Indiana,” reuters.com, June 25, 2014
Charles Wilson, “Judge Strikes Down Indiana Ban on Gay Marriage,” ap.org, June 25, 2014