Indianapolis — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, sending hundreds of residents to make history by applying for marriage licenses and tying the knot. But the legal battles are far from over, and the celebrations may be short-lived.
Here are five things to know about Judge Richard Young’s ruling:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
For now, at least, same-sex couples can legally be married in Indiana, and the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The ruling also means same-sex couples can file joint tax returns, have their partners listed as their spouse on death certificates and receive the same pension benefits as heterosexual couples.
WHERE CAN COUPLES GET A MARRIAGE LICENSE?
County clerks’ offices are responsible for issuing marriage licenses, but not all offices granted licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday because they were awaiting guidance from the attorney general’s office. The office instructed clerks in Hamilton, Allen, Boone, Porter and Lake counties, which were named in the lawsuits challenging the ban, that they must comply with the court’s ruling or be subject to contempt of court. It said other county clerks aren’t under the direct jurisdiction of Young’s order but urged them to “show respect for the judge and the orders that are issued.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The Indiana attorney general’s office says it will seek a stay of Young’s order as it appeals the ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana says it will fight those efforts. Attorneys and advocates on both sides of the debate expect the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately decide whether states must allow gay marriage.
HOW DOES INDIANA FIT IN NATIONALLY?
Young’s ruling is part of a growing trend of lower courts throwing out gay-marriage bans since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, 16 federal judges have issued rulings siding with gay marriage advocates. Indiana is now the 20th state to allow gay marriage.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE STATE’S PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL BAN?
Supporters of a constitutional ban on gay marriage had hoped to put the issue to Indiana voters this fall. But lawmakers stripped a sentence that would have barred future approval of civil unions, and the language change reset the clock. The earliest an amendment could appear before voters is 2016, but many believe Young’s ruling makes the issue moot.
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