Same-sex couples scrambled to obtain coveted marriage licenses in county clerk offices across Indiana on Wednesday, but those in Bartholomew County were turned away empty-handed.
A window of time allowing same-sex couples to marry opened at midday when a federal judge overturned Indiana’s ban on such unions.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Richard Young’s ruling sent shock waves and uncertainty through many county courthouses. Young’s ruling was in favor of multiple plaintiffs in three separate cases who filed suit against Indiana in federal court over its same-sex marriage ban.
Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines sent same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses back home, saying she was waiting for direction from the state attorney general’s office — direction that had not arrived by Wednesday’s office closing time.
Carolyn Cory and Maddy Halloran, Hope residents who have been domestic partners for 35 years, made a trip to the clerk’s office in hopes of obtaining a marriage license, but Hines denied their request.
“We knew that they would refuse, but we just had to make a statement,” Cory said. “It’s a shame you can’t get a license in the county you live in.”
Cory and Halloran presented a copy of Young’s ruling to Hines and, by their account, said she refused to look at it or grant them a license until she heard back from Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
Eric Malanoski, a Columbus resident and member of a same-sex couple, said he and his partner had also attempted to obtain a license from Hines but were denied as well.
“Instantly there was a deep sense of sadness,” Malanoski said. “We knew what the ruling said, and we knew that she was inherently incorrect.”
Disappointed with the local county clerk’s decision, Cory, Halloran and Malanoski praised the district court’s ruling.
“We are thrilled,” Halloran said. “We are finally not going to be considered second-class citizens anymore.”
“We were elated and felt a huge sense of relief,” Malanoski said of his emotions and those of his partner, who he did not name. “It feels like a heavy burden has suddenly been lifted.”
Wednesday’s court ruling was also welcomed by another Columbus couple.
“We are so excited about this that Indiana gets to recognize same-sex marriage,” said Samantha Aulick, co-owner of 240sweet marshmallow shop in Taylorsville.
Aulick and her spouse and business partner, Alexa Lemley, were married this month in Chicago, where same-sex marriages are legally performed.
“We are proud members of the Columbus community, and we feel that the state and its citizens should be proud to recognize our unions and our love,” Aulick said.
The Marion County clerk immediately began issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples, and even conducted Indiana’s first same-sex marriage. A same-sex marriage was also conducted in nearby Brown County.
But Zoeller’s office said it will appeal Young’s ruling and request a stay — which would continue the ban on gay marriages until a higher court is able to hear the issue.
“The Indiana Attorney General’s Office is analyzing the court’s rulings in the multiple cases and will communicate with county clerks on proper marriage license procedures they should follow in order to avoid chaos during the appeal,” spokesman Bryan Corbin wrote in a statement.
The Attorney General’s Office had previously indicated it would file an appeal if the state’s same-sex-marriage ban were overturned, and announced Wednesday that it would seek a stay of Young’s ruling.
The ruling was welcomed by Columbus’ largest employer, Cummins Inc., whose workers had lobbied Indiana’s legislators to turn away from the same-sex ban because it did not represent the inclusiveness and welcoming atmosphere that Indiana needs to be competitive in the business world.
“Diversity and inclusion are core values of Cummins, and we have a long history of advocating for policies that are fair and respectful of all people and we fully support today’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage in Indiana,” said Marya Rose, chief administrative officer and vice president of Cummins Inc., in a statement issued Wednesday. “This is yet another reason why all efforts to define marriage in our state’s constitution should immediately cease.”
Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native, said he supported Zoeller’s efforts to repeal the federal court ruling and “defend Indiana’s right to define the institution of marriage for the residents of our state.”
But in a statement, Pence said the state would comply with the federal court’s order as the case moves through the appeals process.
“I was a little surprised. I thought it was up to each state to define marriage,” said state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus. “I was surprised that a federal judge would intervene and rule that Indiana’s (marriage) law was unconstitutional.”
Acknowledging that he wasn’t an attorney and had not read the entire opinion, Smith said he couldn’t interpret if the ruling gives a county clerk’s office the jurisdiction to issue marriage licenses or perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
“To me it’s more about jurisdiction than it is about the law itself,” said State Sen. Greg Walker. “I suspect a stay will come, but this is not a settled matter. One court decision about a few same-sex couples does not overturn the state’s marriage law.”
Reaction was also mixed among Columbus area church representatives.
“While we care for people of all sexual orientations and backgrounds and while every person has dignity and worth in the eyes of God, we do believe that God has created marriage to be exclusively between a man and woman,” said Justin White, lead pastor of First Christian Church in Columbus.
Scott Hill, interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, said most of his congregation had been praying this day would come.
“Like many churches, we have diverse feelings here (about how to view same-sex marriage). We take the Bible seriously, but not simplistically. Most of our members have been praying for this and rejoice at celebrating God’s love in every life,” he said.