Couples won't seek appeal in Indiana gay marriage case

BY admin

February 19 2005 12:00 AM ET

Three gay couples who challenged Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage will not ask the state supreme court to review the ruling that upheld the law, instead shifting their focus to defeating a constitutional amendment banning such unions, they said. The Indiana court of appeals last month rejected the challenge, saying Indiana has an interest in seeing that children are raised in stable environments and suggesting traditional marriage is the best way to do so.

The appeals court upheld a ruling by a Marion County judge, who dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that state law clearly defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman. "Even though we do not agree with the decision...we have decided not to appeal," Dawn Egler told The Indianapolis Star for a Friday story. The couples had until this week to appeal.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2002 by Egler and her partner, Charlotte Egler of Hendricks County; Teresa Stephens and Ruth Morrison of Indianapolis; and David Wene and David Squire of Indianapolis. All three have had civil union ceremonies in Vermont, and the Eglers also had a Canadian wedding ceremony in 2003. "We are in no way admitting defeat," said Dawn Egler. "We are simply choosing
to redirect our energy."

Their new focus, she said, will be on helping defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The Indiana senate correction, criminal, and civil matters committee approved the amendment last week by a 7-4 vote. It is expected to be debated by the full senate next week. The amendment defines marriage as "the union of one man and one woman." It says state law "may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

Approval by the legislature this year would be the first step in the process that requires legislative approval again in 2007 or 2008 and a public referendum before the amendment becomes law. The earliest it could come up for a public vote is November 2008. Dawn Egler said the couples spoke to several people about appealing their case to the state supreme court. "They all agreed that the risk of moving forward outweighed the benefits," she said.

The downside included the possibility of an unfavorable ruling that would set a legal precedent that could hinder future challenges--and an antigay backlash, she said. If the plaintiffs had appealed and lost, the supreme court decision would have influenced other state laws, said Jennifer A. Drobac, an associate professor at the Indiana School of Law in Indianapolis. "On a more personal level, continued litigation to secure basic civil rights exacts a heavy emotional toll on plaintiffs," she said. "Litigants often feel isolated and demoralized when respected members of their community reject their plea for equal rights."

Atty. Gen. Steve Carter, whose office defended the state law, said he welcomed an end to the case. "It keeps our law intact, and we will not have to continue spending resources to defend the Indiana statute in this case," he said.

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