Third Lawsuit Filed Challenging Ind. Marriage Law
By Mike Perleberg
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Lawsuits targeting Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage are piling up, with the third suit in a week filed Friday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday morning arguing that Indiana state law, specifically Indiana Code 31-11-1-1 barring same-sex married couples from having the same benefits and protections as traditional couples, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment ensuring due process and equal protection.
This is the third lawsuit challenging Indiana’s marriage statute to be filed this month. On Thursday, Lambda Legal – a gay rights organization representing three gay couples – filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana in Indianapolis. Four other couples filed a lawsuit in the same court on March 7.
Regarding the latest suit, the state ACLU and Indianapolis attorney Sean Lemieux are representing 15 people, including two children of same-sex couples, who were married outside of Indiana
“Marriage has long played a fundamental role in our society,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Kenneth J. Falk. “By failing to allow or recognize marriages for same-sex couples in Indiana, the state is perpetuating a discriminatory practice that cannot be squared with the Constitution.”
Lemieux called the government “a powerful teacher of discrimination.”
“There is no justification for Indiana to treat these families as second class citizens. The families in this case want the responsibility, security and dignity that only marriage provides and their children deserve the same protections that other Indiana families enjoy,” Lemieux said.
In response to the Lanbda Legal suit filed Thursday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a statement in which he said he will defend Indiana’s marriage definition statute from legal challenges both at the trial court level and any appeal.
“When plaintiffs who disagree with an Indiana statute file a challenge in court, I have a duty as Indiana’s Attorney General to defend our state and the statute the Legislature passed to the best of my skill and ability — and will do so here, both now and on any appeal. Though such cases elicit strong opinions on both sides, Hoosiers should maintain civility and respect toward each other while the court does its work,” Zoeller said.
Zoeller said he has successfully defended Indiana’s marriage definition law from previous legal challenges.
No ruling has been made yet on any of the three recent federal lawsuits in the Hoosier state.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled that the commonwealth had to begin recognizing the legal rights of gay couples married out of state. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, declined to appeal the ruling saying the action would be “defending discrimination.”
However, fellow Democrat and Governor Steve Beshear, with an opinion differing from Conway, has hired a private law firm to represent Kentucky in an appeal of the judge’s ruling.
Such cases taking place throughout a number of states likely has the gay marriage issue on a path to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In February, Indiana lawmakers passed House Joint Resolution 3, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Supporters of the amendment said it would strengthen Indiana’s gay marriage ban, which is currently only state law, from court rulings. HJR 3 must pass the legislature again in 2016 or 2017 before it could go to voters.