By Lesley Weidenbener and Paige Clark
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday night stopped county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a move that throws hundreds of unions performed over the past two days into limbo.
The court - at the request of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller - issued a stay of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Young that found the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
The ruling means that same sex marriages are "now halted, pending resolution of this appeal in the 7th Circuit," said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. "County clerks will be notified that under the stay granted tonight, Indiana's marriage laws are again fully in force pursuant to the 7th Circuit's order."
The order came a few hours after Hoosiers who support same sex marriage delivered a petition with more than 12,000 signatures to the attorney general's office encouraging him to stop pursuing the stay and an appeal of Young's decision.
"We are extremely disappointed that the court has issued this stay, and we are committed to protecting the freedom to marry in Indiana," said Kyle Megrath, marriage coordinator for Hoosiers Unite.
Since the decision Wednesday, hundreds of same sex couples across the state have married. But because Young's ruling in favor of gay marriage has been stayed, state law is now back in effect. That law does not recognize same sex marriages - even for those couples married in a state where the unions are legal.
"More than anything, this is a terrible blow to the legally wedded Indiana couples and their families who were finally - after so long - recognized this week under Indiana law," Megrath said.
Zoeller first requested the stay from Young, just hours after the judge issued his original decision. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a response on Friday.
But when Young hadn't ruled by later Friday, the attorney general sought the stay from the 7th Circuit, which will also consider the appeal.
Earlier in the day, Megrath said he had tried to talk to Zoeller but was told he was unavailable. The group then delivered the petitions to his office. Cynthia Alexander helped with the delivery of the petitions and said Friday, "We have the right to marry."
Alexander and her wife, Angie, were married in Iowa last March.
"We got married and it was a phenomenal experience. We'd love to have it here in our home state," Cynthia Alexander said. "We are Hoosiers and we love this state."
The couple has a daughter, age four, who accompanied them to the Statehouse during this year's legislative debate about marriage.
"She was like 'Mommy why are we here, why are we all in red?' So I had to explain to her Democrats and Republicans and that these guys over here don't want us to get married and these guys do," Angie Alexander said. "And she was like "Well why don't they want you to be married. She went all in for it, as much as she could understand."
"Even at our wedding, I didn't come up the aisle for a minute and so she cried because she thought I wasn't going to get married and thought that those mean people didn't let us," she laughed.
Some plaintiffs, other same-sex couples and Jack Wilson followed Megreath into the attorney general's office with stacks of papers containing the 12,000 signatures.
Wilson is a military veteran and an active member of American Veterans for Equal Rights. He was with his partner, Marvin, for 58 years.
"We were together 24 hours a day for 58 years. We even worked together," Wilson said. "It was a good life for us."
Wilson's partner passed away in 2009, but the couple made sure they were each other beneficiaries in such an event.
"We had a hard time getting a mortgage because we were two men with two different last names," Wilson said. "We found out the only way we were protected was to get everything done in writing form and attorney with both names on it.
"This was 58 years ago, things have got to change," Wilson said. "I'm looking forward to the future generation to not have to go though with what he to do through because of our lifestyle."
Paige Clark is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.