The state has asked the United States Supreme Court to declare its ban on gay marriage constitutional.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed an appeal with the nation’s highest court on Tuesday. He’s asking the justices to overturn last week’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which declared Indiana’s marriage law unconstitutional.
The Indiana case is one of several that have been appealed to the Supreme Court, where the justices could agree to take up some, none or all of them.
Zoeller said Indiana’s case has reached this point in the legal process in “lightening speed” – only about six months after a group of gay couples challenged the state law.
“Our state, nation and all persons involved need a final, unambiguous and conclusive answer from the Supreme Court on the legal authority of states to license marriages,” Zoeller said in a statement. “We ask the court to take up this question through either our case or another case at its earliest opportunity and end the uncertainty.”
In a separate petition, the couples who first brought the case asked the Supreme Court to weigh in as well, saying that “the issue is of fundamental importance to (the plaintiffs) and the country as a whole.”
In a unanimous decision on both the Indiana and Wisconsin marriage laws, a three-judge Appeals Court panel said the states “have given us no reason to think they have a ‘reasonable basis’ for forbidding same sex marriage.”
In fact, the ruling said the states’ argument that same-sex couples don’t need marriage because they can’t produce children “is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously.”
That ruling upheld a district judge’s declaration that the law is unconstitutional. In the days after the district ruling, hundreds of gay couples married in Indiana. But a later stay by the appeals court – which remains in place – left those unions in legal limbo.
“The fight for the freedom to marry isn’t over yet,” said Kyle Megrath, marriage coordinator for Hoosiers Unite for Marriage. “And we’re more committed than ever to making sure that Indiana families have the protections they deserve.”
Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia have also asked the Supreme Court to consider lower court rulings in support of same-sex marriage.
According to Zoeller, different legal arguments were used in each of the cases to strike down state marriage laws. Indiana’s appeal contends that due to the circuit split, the Supreme Court should take up the legal question this term and resolve it conclusively.
The attorney general’s office also argues that Indiana’s case is free of some legally complicating factors found in other cases and could afford the Supreme Court a good opportunity to decide the matter – either as a stand-alone case or in conjunction with other cases.
The appeal, drafted by Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, says that “two core same-sex marriage issues have emerged from coordinated national litigation over the past year: Whether states can define marriage as a man-woman institution, and even if so, whether states must nonetheless recognize same-sex marriages from other states.”
“It is important for the court to resolve both issues simultaneously so that states will have a clear understanding of the extent of their authority to define marriage within their borders,” the brief said.
Tuesday was the deadline for Indiana to file its petition in order to be considered along with the Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia petitions during the Supreme Court’s first conference Sept. 29, where justices are to decide which cases to hear in a term that begins in October and lasts through June 2015.
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.