Lawsuit challenges Indiana’s definition of marriage


By Lesley Weidenbener

timthumb.php-10INDIANAPOLIS – Four Hoosier couples are challenging the state’s marriage law, saying it’s unconstitutional for Indiana to refuse to marry same-sex couples or recognize gay unions from other states.

The lawsuit – filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana – says the state law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The suit is similar to one in Kentucky, in which a federal judge ruled that the commonwealth must recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Friday that his office will defend the state’s marriage law. 

“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 a 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.”

The lawsuit is unrelated to efforts by the General Assembly to put the state’s definition of marriage – the union of one man and one woman – into the Indiana Constitution. Lawmakers approved the proposed constitutional amendment this year but it needs approval from the General Assembly again in 2015 or 2016 to go on the ballot for ratification.

However, even if the amendment were in place now, it would not be a defense against the lawsuit. That’s because it’s filed in federal court and challenges the law for violating the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs in the suit include two females who are engaged and want to marry in Indiana, two males who want to be married in Indiana, two females who married in Massachusetts in 2008, and two females who married in New York last year.

Their suit says that Indiana “has no rational, legitimate, or compelling state interest in treating same-sex couples any differently from opposite-sex couples.”

It also claims that marriage is a fundamental right and that the U.S. Constitution requires it to be recognized across states.

“Same-sex spouses who have entered into legal marriages in other jurisdictions have a reasonable expectation that they will continue to be protected by the rights and protections conferred by marriage when they relocate to another state,” the suit said.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman and left it up to states to make decisions about the definition of a legal marriage.

Since then, a district judge ruled that Kentucky must recognize marriages in other states. Also, a federal court has ruled that an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. That ruling came one week after a similar ruling was made on a same-sex marriage ban in Utah.

Zoeller’s office has defended the state’s marriage law against legal challenges in state court. And the Indiana Attorney General’s Office was one of the lead authors of two amicus briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of other states’ laws defining marriage in a traditional way.

Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


  1. The only surprises here are that it took so long for the suit to be filed and that it appears broader than many of the others already filed. The inclusion of the request for the State to be ordered to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples does come as a surprise. The widening of the relief sought is likely based on the 100% success rate in the suits in other states. At any rate, this will be interesting to watch and hopefully, learn from.

    • I just read it, those are Louisville attorneys that filed it. I wonder if they’re the same ones that persuaded a federal judge that Kentucky should do the right thing and acknowledge same sex marriages performed in other states.

      • I was wondering that, too. If they can do it in a place as backward as KY, they may possibly be able to do it in IN!
        I read the Utah decision last night, and it effectively dismantles any defense that can be presented for stopping same-sex marriage.

        • Maybe Kentucky is not as backwards as you Hoosiers comfort yourselves by believing. Which state has the most effective website for signing people up for ACA? KENTUCKY. Which state has the good sense to accept gay marriage and an Attorney General with the heart and mind to back it up? KENTUCKY. You Hoosiers like to face south and stick your noses up thinking the bluegrass state is filled with uneducated inbreds. I suggest you look in the mirror as we are more progressive and more prosperous than our snooty delusional neighbors to the north.

        • Laura
          You have your nerve calling a state like Kentucky backwards ,they have their stuff together better then Indiana does .
          Several weeks ago you tell me that my parents weren’t deserving to be on a pedestal as high as I put em on , all cause I don’t agree with same-sex marriage ..
          not only that we have always paid our,my own bills and paid back all loans in full and on time
          PS I’m far from perfect and have faults of my own

          • Oh, you must be Blackhorse. As usual, you read what you wanted to read instead of what was written. If you take a look at what I wrote, I think you’ll see that I was saying that KY is ahead of IN. It just so happens that my very respectable family is from KY, and I spent a lot of time growing up there. You probably shouldn’t be so “up-tight”, and even learn to laugh at yourself.
            As for your snark about the loan, all you know is what was printed in the newspaper almost 30 years ago, and that’s not much.

          • “I’m far from perfect and have faults of my own.”

            It would appear so. You’re apparently ashamed of who you are, because you hide behind a screen name. Of course, I can see how someone who has said some of the hateful things you have would want to hide themselves.

  2. So what? I said several weeks ago that without an amendment activist would seize the opportunity and Indiana will lose in the present mood of the courts. Our marriage statutes have a fatal flaw in singling out a restriction for recognizing.

    Now we can get on to the next wave of the government coercing bakers, picture takers, and candlestick makers to celebrate same sex marriage…as long as we keep any crosses off the sidewalk.

    • IE I wonder what you and you “compassionate” christian buddies would say anout a few dozen large muslim half moons on public property? Hypocrite?

      • I would say it is their constitutional right. A better question would be what you and your separation of church and state buddies would have said? Actually you would have to wait until you were told what to think about it by your hall’s democrat representative.

        • Nope, I would be opposed to that too. Both religions have plenty of blood on their hands and shouldn’t displayed on public property. Private property? Go nuts.

          • Well looks like both of us were wrong about each other.

            Unions have a sorted history also. Should union protest only be allowed on private property? You can’t fence in freedom.

            BTW, secular atheistic regimes have the worst human rights violations and have killed tens of millions more than religion.

  3. Indiana deserves to be sued for discriminating against gay folks. This isn’t the kind of thing that should ever be taken directly to the voters. Their judges will speak for them.

    Yesterday I sent a copy of this most recent suit against Indiana to a couple of guys I know that live here. They recently got married in Iowa. They are good friends to me and my wife and have been together about as long as we have. I can’t really speak for them on this but that would pretty much seem to be an eternity.

    They are happy to be married, feel like full citizens for a change. Pence and Zoeller have pulled those jackboots on and will try to roll that back or minimize the spread of such happiness in Indiana. Neither of them deserve to hold public office.

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