Updated: Four Southern Indiana same-sex couples are challenging in federal court the state’s laws banning same-sex marriage.
Their attorneys are the same team who are representing same-sex couples challenging Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban. In that suit, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ordered the state to recognize out-of-state same-sex couples, but later issued a stay until March 20. Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to appeal.
Two of the Indiana couples—Melissa Love and Erin Brock of Jeffersonville and Michael Drury and Lane Stumler of New Albany—are seeking marriage licenses so they can get married in Indiana. The other two couples were married in other states—Otisco residents Jo Ann Dale and Carol Uebelhoer in Massachusetts and Jeffersonville residents Jennifer Redmond and Jana Kohorst in New York.
Dan Canon, one of their attorneys, said they’ll seek an immediate injunction so the couples can be recognized in Indiana, or so they can be issued marriage licenses.
Unlike Kentucky, Indiana does not have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage—the matter could have, but didn’t, end up on the ballot in a referendum for later this year.
Instead, same-sex marriage is banned in Indiana through a state Defense of Marriage Act, Canon said. The lawsuit filed Friday takes aim at those laws. Canon said every federal judge that has considered same-sex marriage bans has ruled against the laws since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year striking down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“They live as married couples, they raise their kids together, they work and go to church in Indiana, pay their taxes in Indiana,” Canon said of his plaintiffs. “And the state of Indiana today says they do not deserve the same rights and responsibilities and privileges that opposite-sex couples enjoy simply because they’re in a same-sex relationship.”
Dale and Uebelhoer were married in 2008. Dale said Uebelhoer has multiple sclerosis, and among other issues they worry about hospital vitiation rights.
While many agree that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually rule on the same-sex marriage issue, Dale noted that decisions reached in other states—including Kentucky—wouldn’t affect the plaintiffs unless an appeals court covering Indiana weighed in.
“We feel ourselves to be married. We are committed to each other. We have a license from Massachusetts, and yet in Indiana we’re supposed to not be married,” Dale said.
“When we file our taxes, we have to put it together for federal purposes. We take it apart again for Indiana purposes. It feels so schizophrenic to not be recognized for who we really are.”
Love and Brock have considered “destination weddings,” but Love said “we’d rather do it in our hometown.”
In a statement, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he’d challenge the lawsuit.
“As state government’s lawyer, I must defend the state’s authority to define marriage at the state level within Indiana’s borders,” Zoeller said in the statement. “People of goodwill have sincere differences of opinion on the marriage definition, but I hope Hoosiers can remain civil to each other as this legal question is litigated in the federal court.”
Canon said the plaintiffs’ attorneys believe it’s the first federal challenge to Indiana’s laws on same-sex marriage. The attorney general’s office noted that it has previously successfully defended the laws in state court.
The lawsuit was filed in the New Albany courthouse of the Southern Indiana District of the U.S. District Court. District Judge Richard L. Young was assigned the case, Canon said.
Earlier: Louisville-based attorneys leading the charge for Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriage are filing a similar lawsuit in Indiana.
The lawsuit is being filed in the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of four same-sex couples who are either seeking to get married or want recognition of a marriage made elsewhere.
The attorneys include Dan Canon, Shannon Fauver and others involved in the Kentucky case, Bourke v. Beshear.
Unlike Kentucky, Indiana does not have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage—and efforts to put a ban on the ballot this year for referendum faltered. Indiana does have laws banning same-sex marriage, however.
Last year, Louisville residents Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon, who were married in Canada, filed a lawsuit challenging Kentucky’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban. In February, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled that the ban violated the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment and ordered Kentucky to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.
Heyburn later issued a stay on the order until March 20; Gov. Steve Beshear this week said he’d hire outside counsel to appeal Heyburn’s order after Attorney Jack Conway declined to take the state’s case further. Same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in Kentucky have also joined the lawsuit, but no decision has been made on their situation.
We’ll speak with the attorneys and others, and have more this afternoon. Stay tuned.
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