Ind. appeals gay marriage case to Supreme Court

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has filed an official appeal to the Supreme Court of the U.S., asking the court to overturn last week’s federal appeals court ruling that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

The 57-page petition (read the document below), filed with the high court Tuesday morning and obtained by I-Team 8, presents two opening questions for the Justices to consider.

“[We ask] whether the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment permit States to define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, [and] whether the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses permit States to treat as void same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions,” the appeal reads.

In asking the Supreme Court to take up the case, Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher writes, “there can be little doubt about the cert-worthiness of the issues presented in this case.”

“The main question at this point is which case, or cases present the best vehicle for the efficient and complete resolution of these issues that the Nation needs,” he goes on to write. “The Court has already tried to address the same-sex marriage issue once, but was stymied by a background political drama that ultimately deprived the Court of a suitable party willing to defend traditional marriage. Particularly given the national upheaval and confusion over this issue…this time around the Court will no doubt choose with special care the case or cases it uses to reach the merits.”

Fisher goes on to argue that Indiana’s appeal is the only case to include “parties willing to defend traditional marriage, both a County Clerk who actually issues marriage licenses and State Officials directly responsible for relief demanded by Plaintiffs.” He also says Indiana’s appeal would not “preclude the Court from arriving at a nationally relevant solution.”

The petition to the Supreme Court comes just five days after a ruling was handed down in the case by the 7th District Court of Appeals in Chicago. That ruling affirmed a lower-court ruling against the ban.

The three-judge panel agreed to stay the ruling pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. That means marriage licenses cannot be issued to same-sex couples and out-of-state gay marriages remain unrecognized.

Zoeller asked for that stay to be extended until the Supreme Court decides on the state’s appeal.

“Less than six months after my office first entered our appearance in trial court to defend our state client from this lawsuit, our case now is knocking on the door of the United States Supreme Court, timing that is lightning speed by the standards of the federal court system. Our state, nation and all persons involved need a final, unambiguous and conclusive answer from the Supreme Court on the legal authority of states to license marriages, and we ask the Court to take up this question through either our case or another case at its earliest opportunity and end the uncertainty,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a news release following the filing Tuesday.

The plaintiffs in the original case, represented by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed their reply to the Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon.

“We would, of course, prefer that the State not seek review and abide by the decision. However, having done so, we will respond that the Court should accept the case and affirm the 7th Circuit,” said ACLU Legal Director Ken Falk.

“Only the highest court in the country can provide the secure relief that same-sex couples and their children need, and it’s extremely important that these families are able to count on the protections of marriage as soon as possible,” said Paul Castillo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “We achieved a unanimous 7th Circuit opinion describing in some of the strongest language to date the harms experienced both by same-sex couples and their children when these families are barred from marriage. We are ready to make the case at the highest court if this case is granted review.”

Attorney General’s Office spokesman Bryan Corbin defended criticism of the appeal as Zoeller’s duty under the law, and said costs are being covered “through the existing office budget the Legislature approved in advance.” The case is assigned to an on-staff, salaried attorney who does not charge billable hours, and the state has not hired outside attorneys on the case, Corbin said.

There is already a long line of circuit court appeals waiting on the Supreme Court which reconvenes the first Monday in October. Indiana’s filing notes that three other states have already appealed federal circuit court rulings in gay marriage cases: Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia. All three rulings struck down existing gay marriage bans in those states.

Tuesday marked the deadline for Indiana to file its petition to the high court in order to be considered along with the other three states during the court’s fall conference, where Justices will decide which cases to hear during their next term. If the Supreme Court agrees to accept Indiana’s case, it will set deadlines for briefs to be filed, and will schedule oral arguments to be heard at a later date.

The Supreme Court’s next term begins in October and runs through June 2015.

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