Indiana same-sex couples thrilled with ruling

Marion County Clerk Beth White talks to Jake Miller and Craig Bowen, who were the first same-sex couple to be married in Indianapolis today.
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Wednesday's decision by a federal judge striking down Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage builds on the momentum across the country to allow gay couples to marry.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled today the state's ban was unconstitutional and that gay couples have the same marriage rights as couples of opposing genders. The ruling took effect immediately.

Same-sex couples began flooding county clerk offices, applying for licenses and in some cases, getting married. The Indiana attorney general's office says it will appeal the decision.

The clerk's office said 250 marriage licenses were issued Wednesday, with an estimated 225-230 of those for same-sex couples. The office performed 188 weddings throughout the day, all but two were between same-sex couples.

As couples were getting married in the clerk's office, plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits arrived at the ACLU office to celebrate and to talk about the momentous day and their role in it.

"It's an overwhelming day. It's an awesome, awesome day," said Stephen Stolen.

"We're proud to be the 20th state that this is happening in," said Rob McPherson.

Stephen Stolen and Rob McPherson, together for 27 years, were ecstatic.

"Stephen and I have an almost 16-year-old daughter who is one of the plaintiffs as well and she is thrilled that her family is now recognized legally in the state of Indiana," said McPherson.

They and 11 others joined the lawsuit earlier this year.

"I feel protected and safe now, finally, to know that if something happens to one of us, the other one is protected," said Melody Layne, plaintiff.

Many couples hurried to get married this afternoon after the state announced it would appeal today's historic ruling. The ACLU's legal director was not worried, and nor were the plaintiffs.

"The state of Indiana is swimming against the tide of history in addition to swimming against legal precedent," said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana.

"We were engaged two years ago and we could have gotten married as soon we wanted to. We kind of felt like we were on the brink of something big here and we decided to hold out and it feels amazing," said Christopher Vallero, plaintiff.

At North United Methodist Church, hundreds gathered Wednesday evening to celebrate what they call the day "love won in Indiana."

Their faces said it all - people with huge smiles coupled with hugs, embraces and a crescendo of emotion. Hundreds celebrated a federal judge's ruling that makes their lives and their love legal in Indiana.

Wednesday's event was organized by Hoosier Unite for Marriage, which has been working toward this day for years.

"The wave of momentum in this state and this country is as big as it can get," said Kyle Megrath, marriage coordinator for Hoosiers Unite for Marriage. "I want to honor and respect every single Hoosier and person in this state that's worked so hard to get us to this place, where now the freedom to marry is the law of the land here."

Cheering in the crowd, waving a large rainbow flag, was a couple who couldn't marry here. Together 21 years, Hoosiers Dannie Chandler and Paul Fischer had a civil union in Indiana before their official wedding in California in 2008.

Now, that marriage is recognized here at home.

It is an emotional moment.

"It's great," Chandler said through tears.

"We honestly didn't think we would see this day in our lifetime in Indiana," Fischer added.

The timing of this ruling is important for them. Chandler just learned of a health issue. He says being a spouse, legally, is suddenly very necessary.

"I was just hoping this would happen before anything happened to either one of us and so it's a real blessing," Chandler said.

Couples at the celebration know there are battles ahead. Not everyone supports same-sex marriage and several state leaders vow to fight it.

It remains a very divisive issue in Indiana.

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a motion late Wednesday to stay this ruling. He also announced plans to appeal it.

"There's a lot of work to do here," Fischer said. "This is one step. It's a great step, a great step. But there's still a lot to do."

But on this night, supporters wanted to celebrate a historic ruling with very personal meaning - for Dannie, Paul and hundreds of other Hoosiers.

"If that appeal comes down and they say that they're gonna stop marriage license, then we're going to keep fighting until we get them (marriage licenses) back and we won't stop," Megrath said.

That statement was followed by a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd.