INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples lined up at courthouses across Indiana Wednesday to apply for marriage licenses and tie the knot after the state became the 20th to recognize same-sex marriage.
But whether those history-making unions would be recognized till death do us part remained in question. The state attorney general's asked U.S. District Judge Richard Young to stay his order while it appeals.
Young's ruling that Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional marked another victory for gay-rights supporters, who have seen momentum for their cause grow across the country in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In that time, 16 federal judges have issued rulings siding with gay marriage advocates.
In conservative Indiana, Wednesday's ruling buoyed advocates who successfully fought a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage in this year's legislative session. Lawmakers approved the proposed amendment, but only after changing its language to remove a clause banning future recognition of civil unions. That reset the clock on the amendment process and pushed the issue back to 2016 at the earliest, by which point legal experts believe it will be moot.
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 U.S. Constitution and bucked the tide of history, citing a string of 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.