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Same-sex couples’ Indiana marriage celebrations could be derailed

Thursday, June 26, 2014
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Melody Merida, center, marries Erin Lynae Fox, right, and Jennifer Elizabeth Fox as their sons Isaac, 7, left, and Redmond, 4, look on in the marion County Clerks office in Indianapolis, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Michael Conroy, AP

Melody Merida, center, marries Erin Lynae Fox, right, and Jennifer Elizabeth Fox as their sons Isaac, 7, left, and Redmond, 4, look on in the marion County Clerks office in Indianapolis, Wednesday, June 25, 2014.

INDIANAPOLIS — Same-sex couples eager to wed in Indiana after a federal judge overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage are waiting to see how the judge responds to a request that he stay his order while the attorney general appeals.

Hundreds of same-sex couples lined up at courthouses across the state Wednesday for marriage licenses and impromptu weddings after U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state’s ban was unconstitutional.

But the state moved swiftly to halt those unions, arguing in its request for a stay that it was “premature to require Indiana to change its definition of marriage” while it appeals the ruling.

Legal experts predicted Young would rule within a week on the request.

Attorneys on both sides of the gay marriage debate expect the issue to ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, 16 federal judges have issued rulings siding with gay marriage advocates, but many of those are being appealed.

But even if their victory celebration is cut short, Indiana gay-rights supporters say Young’s ruling is an important step forward.

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“The reason things are changing is because we’re out, and because people are getting to know us because we’re out there and we have normal lives and normal families,” said Melody Layne, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging Indiana’s ban. Layne married her partner, Tara Betterman, in New York, and they have a daughter.

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’s ruling changes that and also allows same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, receive pension benefits and have their partners listed as spouses on death certificates.

Young found that Indiana’s ban on gay marriage violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution and bucked the tide of history, citing similar rulings in other federal court districts.

“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,” Young wrote.

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