Indiana attorney general to defend traditional marriage definition


Indiana's attorney general says his office will defend the state's definition of marriage after a legal challenge was filed in federal court.

Four couples from southern Indiana are asking a federal judge to force the state to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

The couples are suing the state of Indiana in a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in New Albany that seeks to overturn an Indiana law that declares same-sex marriages void, even if another state recognizes the union.

The plaintiffs and their attorneys met with reporters Friday afternoon in Louisville, Ky., and said the recent debate over a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Indiana spurred their suit.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of multiple rulings around the nation striking down same-sex marriage bans in states ranging from Texas to Kentucky.

It isn't the first time Greg Zoeller's office has defended Indiana's statutory definition of marriage. Zoeller filed two amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2013 supporting other states' traditional definition of marriage (Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor).

Zoeller has said he would defend Indiana's marriage definition. Read his statement here.

The case is Love et al v. Pence, although Zoeller says his office has not yet been served with the legal challenge.

"As Indiana's Attorney General I will represent our state and defend our statute now and on any appeal to the best of my skill and ability, as I swore an oath to do. As state government's lawyer, I must defend the state's authority to define marriage at the state level within Indiana's borders. 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," Zoeller said.

The issue was at the forefront of debate in the 2014 Indiana General Assembly. Last month, the Indiana Senate advanced a proposed constitutional same-sex marriage ban with language that pushes off the soonest public referendum until at least 2016.

Indiana senators advanced the proposed ban without a provision that would ban civil unions. Under the state's constitutional amendment process, the civil unions ban needed to be included in the amendment for it to be placed on this November's ballot.

The Senate's decision marked a victory for opponents of the marriage ban just three years after legislators approved the amendment with broad support.