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Ind. same-sex couples face waiting game on whether marriages are valid

Monday, June 30, 2014
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Adam Shoffner, right, shouts his joy after he married Daniel Tolliver, left, Thursday, June 26, 2014, as Marion County Clerk Beth White looks on.  AP

Adam Shoffner, right, shouts his joy after he married Daniel Tolliver, left, Thursday, June 26, 2014, as Marion County Clerk Beth White looks on.

INDIANAPOLIS — Same-sex couples who rushed to courthouses across Indiana during the three days it was legal for them to get married there could now face long months before they learn whether their unions are valid.

Legal experts disagreed about the issue Saturday, and it isn’t certain a clear answer will be reached any time soon.

A federal appeals court issued a stay Friday that put on hold a U.S. district judge’s ruling that struck down Indiana’s prohibition on same-sex marriage.

But Judge Richard Young’s ruling last Wednesday that the ban was unconstitutional was in effect for three days, during which hundreds of gay and lesbian couples obtained marriage licenses and many were wed.

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The question that’s unsettled is whether Indiana has to recognize those marriages.

“That is undetermined. Such issues might have to be determined by a court later,” said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana attorney general’s office, which obtained the stay order.

Indiana law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the state has refused to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. Young wrote in his ruling that such restrictions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and noted that courts across the country have agreed. In 17 consecutive court decisions, federal and state judges have upheld the right of gays to marry.

Jennifer Drobac, a professor at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law who specializes in sexual orientation legal issues, didn’t hold out much hope to same-sex married couples in Indiana for now, but said that could eventually change.

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