Appeals court grants stay to halt same-sex marriage in Indiana

Ryan Badger-Bridewell (left) and Joshua Badger-Bridewell (right) are pictured getting married, with their daughter.
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A federal appeals court has granted a stay requested by Indiana attorney General Greg Zoeller that effectively halts same-sex marriage in the state.

Read the court document here.

Zoeller, tired of waiting for a U.S. district judge to rule on the state's request that he stay his ruling striking down Indiana's prohibition on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, appealed to a higher court.

Zoeller late Friday afternoon asked the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to stay the order issued Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Richard Young. The stay was issued about two hours after Zoeller's office filed the motion.

"During the stay of the district court's ruling, the parties will have the opportunity to submit their arguments to the 7th Circuit in the appeal of the underlying lawsuits challenging Indiana's marriage law, but Chief Judge Young's order of Wednesday will not be in effect," said Bryan Corbin, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office.

Corbin says the attorney general's office has noted the confusion and inconsistency for the public since the ruling Wednesday, saying most county clerks are issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, but a few clerks are not.

"They're opening the door to SCOTUS saying yes. They recognize one judge should not make marriage policy for seven million people," said Curt Smith with the Indiana Family Institute. "They'll take a longer, more reflective look. It won't be an emotional ruling from Judge Young the other day. If two people can get married...any two people can get married, that's not what marriage is about. Marriage is about the next generation, not the desires of adults."

It isn't clear what would happen to the gay marriages already performed if a stay is approved.

"For purposes of Federal law, when they file their tax returns or other issues that are decided by Federal law, their pension benefits, they are married," said Indiana School of Law Professor David Orentlicher.

Orentlicher cited cases in Wisconsin and Utah where the Obama Administration faced the same issue.

"I believe the federal government has specifically held that marriages that were entered into prior to a stay are still valid," ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk told the Los Angeles Times.

However the status of the marriages under Indiana law remained a question Friday.

"What happens for state law will depend on the attorney general and maybe the governor. If they say, 'We will respect these marriages,' then there's nothing to worry about. If they say, 'No, we don't view these as valid marriages,' then it may have to go back to court."

Corbin said late Friday the status in the state remains "undetermined."

"Such issues might be determined by a court later," he wrote in an email.

Statement from Hoosiers Unite for Marriage on the Seventh Circuit stay halting same-sex marriages in Indiana:

Kyle Megrath, marriage coordinator of Hoosiers Unite for Marriage, a statewide effort dedicated to moving marriage forward for all loving and committed couples, issued the following response to the stay:

“We are extremely disappointed that the court has issued this stay, and we are committed to protecting the freedom to marry in Indiana. Hundreds of loving, committed couples were finally able to join in marriage this week, and we delivered more than 12,000 petition signatures today asking Attorney General Greg Zoeller not to pursue any appeals of the ruling overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“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."

Unanswered questions

Earlier Friday, Marion County clerk Beth White said she would stop issuing licenses if the stay was granted.

"We will of course comply with any court order," she said.

But a stay would raise new questions: what would happen to those couples who have a license but didn't have a ceremony, or those who had a ceremony but didn't record their license?

White says she doesn't know the answer to those questions.

"People have been asking me. I am a lawyer, but we've got a lot smarter lawyers than me figuring all this out," she said.

The clerk's office has already canceled the extended hours they had planned to be open on Saturday.