The Indiana court of appeals ruled Thursday that the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples can stand, rejecting a challenge by three gay couples to a law prohibiting even the recognition of legal same-sex marriages from other states. A decision was not immediately made on whether to appeal the decision to the state supreme court, but supporters of the ban said they would continue their
push for Indiana to join other states with constitutional amendments banning the unions.
The appeals court upheld a ruling by a Marion County judge who dismissed the couples' lawsuit on the grounds that state law clearly defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. "What we decide today is that the Indiana constitution does not require the governmental recognition of same-sex marriage, although the legislature is certainly free to grant such recognition or create a parallel institution under that document," the court said in its ruling.
Charlotte Egler, who was a plaintiff in the case along with her partner, Dawn Egler, said she was not discouraged by the ruling. "Temporarily, this is a disappointment and a defeat, and in the long run
attitudes change and people get to know their neighbors," she said. "Opinion is going to change, and laws are going to change to reflect that."
Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said the group would continue to push for passage of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He said lawmakers should not let the issue take a backseat to other proposals from Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, who did not mention gay marriage in his State of the State address on Tuesday. "The tendency among some legislators would be to ignore the issue now that the court has upheld the law, but that would be a mistake," Clark said.
Indiana house speaker Brian Bosma said he was pleased with the court's decision, adding that Republican lawmakers still plan to advance a state constitutional amendment to specifically ban gay marriage. "It does not positively protect marriage from future courts," Bosma said of the ruling. "That certainly is not the end of the battle."
The ruling comes more than a year after judges Michael Barnes, James Kirsch, and Ezra Friedlander heard arguments in the case. The court said that opposite-sex couples are distinguished from same-sex couples because they can produce children and that the couples who filed the lawsuit did not establish that they had a "core value" right to marry. "Opposite-sex marriage furthers the legitimate state interest in encouraging opposite-sex couples to procreate responsibly and have and raise children within a stable environment," the ruling said.
The Indiana Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, argued that the law was unconstitutional because it limited the choices of gays and lesbians. The state attorney general's office defended the ban, saying the courts should respect the decision made by legislators in approving the law. Friedlander raised concerns in a concurring opinion about the 1997 law that stated the ban was justifiable because the purpose of the law was to promote procreation. "I must admit that I am somewhat troubled by this reasoning," Friedlander wrote. "Pursuant to this rationale, the state presumably could also prohibit
sterile individuals or women past their childbearing years from marrying."
The ICLU disagreed with the argument that no purpose was advanced in denying same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage, said Ken Falk, the group's legal director. "I thought we had made a good argument as to why excluding same-sex couples who were in loving, committed relationships from marriage was unconstitutional," Falk said. (AP)