EDITORIAL: U.S. Supreme Court clarification needed

2014-06-26T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: U.S. Supreme Court clarification neededBy The Times Editorial Board nwitimes.com
June 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

History was made Wednesday with the first legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples in Lake and Porter counties, just months after the Indiana General Assembly debated a constitutional prohibition against them.

For those couples, it is a time to celebrate.

But what happens if Indiana wins the appeal against U.S. District Judge Richard Young's ruling? And will there be a stay on same-sex marriages while Judge Young's ruling is under appeal? What would be the status of the marriages already taking place once Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller files the appeal? 

There are too many unanswered questions caused by the string of federal court rulings on this issue.

That's not to say the tide isn't clear. Young used his ruling Wednesday to offer his perspective on the issue.

"The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue," Young wrote. "In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions — laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional."

Wednesday saw a federal court ruling in Utah with similar results.

Young determined Indiana's Section 31-11-1-1 — "Same sex marriages prohibited" — violates violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause.

Some of the plaintiffs in the three lawsuits combined for this ruling were region residents.

Two of the plaintiffs, at least, live within an easy stroll of the Illinois state line, where their marriage was already legal.

Valparaiso resident Mary Williams said she and her partner Angela Williams rushed to marry as quickly as possible Wednesday.

"I got the message from a friend today and we wanted to hurry before there was an appeal," she said.

Young's ruling is definitive, at least for now, but an appeal could change that.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana attorney general's office, said the state would "quickly" file an appeal and ask for a stay on the judge's ruling. That would revert Indiana to the old law, which outlawed same-sex marriage, pending the outcome of the state's appeal. The judge might or might not grant the stay.

Were Wednesday's celebrations premature? That, too, is hard to determine now.

There are so many "what ifs" involved, pending the outcome of the appeal, that the Supreme Court must determine, once and for all, whether the U.S. Constitution allows states to prohibit same-sex marriage.

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