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Marriage equality lawsuit filed in Indiana

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Indiana state sealFour couples in Indiana have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban and its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside of the state. The suit was filed by attorneys who are not affiliated with LGBT groups in the state; two couples are unmarried and are seeking marriage licenses, while the other two are married and seeking state recognition of their marriages:

The law firm announced the lawsuit Friday at its downtown offices. It was filed in the Southern District of Indiana, which has a courthouse in New Albany. The couples are from Clark and Floyd counties, and it’s the only such federal case involving Indiana.

Attorney Dan Canon said during the media conference that Indiana is under leadership that says his clients do not deserve the same rights, responsibilities and privileges provided to opposite-sex couples, simple because they are in a same-sex relationships. Canon and his eight clients are taking aim at the Indiana statute that reads, “Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female. A marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized.”

“All of these couples that we represent are like any other opposite-sex couples in the state of Indiana,” he said. “They live as married couples. They raise their kids together. They work and go to church in Indiana. They pay their taxes in the state of Indiana.”

The state legislature has just declined to put a same-sex marriage ban on the state’s ballot for the 2014 election after a fight that seemingly could have ended in an outcome unfavorable to Indiana’s LGBT community. Because of this and other reasons, this lawsuit is facing some criticism:

Earlier this year, the Hoosier LGBT community came together in an unprecedented coalition that included all of the state’s Fortune 500 companies and other business groups, most of the universities and colleges, and other civil rights organizations to fend off a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. They were barely successful in getting the amendment off this year’s ballot, but together they accomplished the seemingly impossible.

Yesterday, four same-gender couples from Indiana filed suit to challenge the state’s statutory marriage ban. The lawsuit was filed by a Kentucky law firm that was part of the successful case to force that state to recognize legally performed same-gender marriages from other jurisdictions.

All of this sounds really great and wonderful, but don’t be fooled. This lawsuit is incredibly ill-timed and could have significant unintended consequences that could have – should have – been avoided.

Indiana’s attorney general will defend the ban in court:

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement that he will fight the lawsuit and defend Indiana’s gay-marriage ban.

“People of good will 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,” Zoeller said in a statement.

Indiana is one of only a few states with no constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and this lawsuit is challenging state statutes under the federal Constitution.

The complaint in Love v. Pence can be read here.

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for this filing.


  • 1. Straight Ally #3008  |  March 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Another "Love v." case? I love it!

  • 2. Pat  |  March 10, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Wow, Love v. Kentucky, Courage v. Wyoming, now Love v. Pence!!
    Do they look for plaintiff names with especially inspiring names?
    Maybe that's reason why the Dakotas are among the last fee states without any lawsuit: theyare looking for possible plaintiffs called Love or Freedom or Happiness to sue the state 😉

  • 3. Michael Grabow  |  March 10, 2014 at 10:41 am

    "and could have significant unintended consequences that could have – should have – been avoided"

    …such as?

  • 4. Jon  |  March 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Convincing the legislature to reopen the constitutional amendment for a 2014 vote…

  • 5. Rakhi  |  March 10, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Threats to add anti-marriage amendments to state constitutions don't scare us anymore.

    Just ask Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Ohio, Virgina, Texas, and in all liklihood Michigan and Oregon just how well their constitutional amendments preserved the santity of Heterosexual Supremacy…er, I mean "traditional marriage."

  • 6. Mark  |  March 10, 2014 at 11:38 am

    It's a federal lawsuit not a state one so having a constitutional amendment doesn't make a difference.

  • 7. StraightDave  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Even if that amendment were approved, it's largely irrelevant. It doesn't change any facts on the ground – marriage is currently banned, anyway. And if the lawsuit succeeds, the presence of an amendment does not affect that result.

    The only possible scenario under which the amendment would make a difference is if the IN legislature were about to retract the ban and the amendment was the only thing preventing that. We're never gonna see that scenario. The US will be wiped clean long before.

  • 8. JayJonson  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Well yes, but the Republicans did not delay the 2014 vote for OUR benefit. They did it for their's. They know that if it goes to the ballot, they could well lose, and in the process lose some of their own seats. They are not being charitable, they are trying to cover their own asses.

  • 9. Zack12  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Indeed, which is why I disagree with the article even though I understand where he's coming from.
    The backlash against the Republicans would be big.. and they know it.

  • 10. Eric  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Less funding for the incumbent LGBT groups that have avoided litigation in Indiana.

  • 11. bayareajohn  |  March 10, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Read the linked article for details. The summary above skips any of the issues and reasons for concern. There are several, all stemming from the filers of the suit not communicating with any of the LGBT resources in the state who have been working the situation for years, and jumping in just a week too soon to avoid another flap with the legislature, who are about to adjourn. Now they have time to be reactionary.

  • 12. Zack12  |  March 10, 2014 at 11:25 am

    My theory is this, there was always going to be a lawsuit in federal court over the ban and the fact remains there are LGBT couples in Indiana who still have no marriage rights and are suffering.
    They have every right to do this IMO.

  • 13. Dann  |  March 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

    IMO all the lawsuits are helping our side. Clearly, if the federal government can't discriminate neither can the states.

  • 14. jpmassar  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Is there a state without marriage equality without a lawsuit?

  • 15. Octa  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Georgia.

    Kansas, Montana, and Alaska haw lawsuits that don't directly challenge the marriage or out of state recognition bans,

  • 16. Eric  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Anyone telling these plaintiffs to wait, is telling them to continue suffering irreparable harm.

  • 17. Background Gal  |  March 10, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    So coordinating efforts and strategic timing are just foolish concepts unrelated to ultimate success. Got it. As when everyone rushes the single door in a fire, assuring everyone a similar outcome.

  • 18. Eric  |  March 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Your analogy doesn't make sense, there is not a barrage of litigation. If only the courts had to deal with tens of thousands of equal protection cases all filed at once.

    Using your analogy, what you are asking is that everyone remains seated in the fire until some arbitrary authority first says it is ok for people to leave and that authority gets to pick who leaves and in what order.

  • 19. Background Gal  |  March 10, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Not to draw this out, but no, that's not what I am asking for and sitting is not the only alternative to rushing a door. Awareness of what is going on around you, not imagining you are in a vacuum and operating alone, at least a thought towards optimizing the outcome for all, that's what I'm for. You aren't?

  • 20. Mike in Baltimore  |  March 10, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Many people thought after 'Baker', the question was settled. In fact, many states being sued are referencing 'Baker' as one (if not the most important) 'reason' for the court to dismiss the suit.

    Do you agree that after 'Baker', the question was settled?

  • 21. Eric  |  March 10, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    If you didn't want to draw this out, why reply?

    There is no rush for the door, one suit has been filed and the items in the complaint are reasonable, valid, and timely given the actions in other states. What exactly is left to optimize?

    My California marriage in 2008 is recognized today, because some individuals decided that the recognition of their fundamental right to marry was not contingent upon the approval of any group. They too were told that the timing was wrong.

  • 22. JayJonson  |  March 11, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Key to deciding whether this suit is a good idea is whether the attorneys know what they are doing. A lawyer from Louisiana filed a suit that was clearly not well thought out. He didn't even know who to sue. Those kinds of suits can gum up the system and lead to bad precedents. However, at this point, it is likely that competent attorneys know the best arguments and precedents to cite. I am not persuaded that we owe the state legislature anything for having decided to delay the ballot issue. They were acting in their own selfish interests, not ours.

  • 23. KarlS  |  March 10, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Something to keep in mind is this simple fact: There are people who will work to advance any political agenda if they can think of a way to make them money, whether they believe in it or not.
    And some of them will ignore their own personal beliefs to argue the other side if it pays well.
    Sad, but true.

  • 24. Zack12  |  March 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I'll note one thing from the of the commenters there was one of the plantiffs in the case that helped bring marriage equality to CA before Prop 8 took it away.
    She mentioned how many of the state groups were angry with her and blamed her and others who brought the suit for Prop 8.
    While I do think the gay rights groups in Indiana were on the ball on this one, the fact is in many cases state groups aren't all they're cracked up to be.
    Egos get in the way as they did in Prop 8.
    Here in NY in 09, not only did our state group push for a vote without being sure the votes were there but a couple of the people in the group (now gone) seemed shocked that there were Democrats opposed to marriage equality or that some of them lied when they said they would vote yes.
    So sometimes, these groups aren't worth talking to and as for these couples, we don't know their circumstances and as I said above..couples have waited long enough.
    A ballot is one thing, lawsuits are another.
    DOMA would still be in place if Edie Windsor had listened to many of the main groups who told her to wait.

  • 25. Rick O.  |  March 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Waiting a week for the legislature to adjourn might have been a good idea, but really, the idea that the Republicans want to open another can of worms after they just ate the last one is far fetched. To the contrary, it becomes apparent that a lot of R's in a lot of states (this was obvious in NM) are desperately hoping the courts dispatch the issue so they don't have to deal with it in their own split party. (Oregon R's – what's left of them – the exception.)

  • 26. Zack12  |  March 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Ironic that a issue they loved to use to bring out their base is now coming back to haunt them. Can't get enough of it.
    I also enjoy the fact it's helped to purge some of the bigots from the Democratic party, either through primaries or them retiring.

  • 27. Mike in Baltimore  |  March 10, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    I think many are also forgetting that even though the GOTP decided to wait until the 2016 November election for a vote by the populace, and this session of the legislature is almost over, the Governor can call the legislature back into special session at any time for any reason. In a special session, they just might try to pass the original constitutional amendment (the one the Governor actually favors), and if they do it this year before the November election, the legislature could still meet their 'November 2016' deadline, as there are legislative elections this November. Such a vote might even mean they try to force a vote this November, as the vote would be for the same wording as in the 2011 legislative vote.

    There is a long time between now and November. Thus anyone thinking the end of the legislative session makes any legislative action impossible just might be surprised.

  • 28. Mike in Baltimore  |  March 10, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    In other news, the United Methodist church will not hold a church trial for the Rev. Ogletree for officiating at his own son's ME wedding in 2012:

  • 29. StraightDave  |  March 11, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Go churches!
    (I can't believe I hear myself saying that, I really can't. But once again, the times they are a-changing)

  • 30. Lawsuit Funding  |  March 22, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Well this lawsuit is going to be tied up in federal court for YEARS I'll bet!

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  • 32. Equality On TrialLambda L&hellip  |  August 7, 2014 at 12:42 am

    […] second lawsuit filed in Indiana, a state that only has a statutory ban on same-sex marriage. The earlier challenge received some criticism because it was filed by groups outside the state, and no input was sought […]

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