US: Judge strikes down Indiana same-sex marriage ban

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A judge has struck down Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban, declaring it unconstitutional.

US District Judge Richard Young ruled that the Indiana Defence of Marriage Act, passed in 2004, violates the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.

Couples can begin to marry immediately, as the judge did not stay the ruling.

Marion County Clerk Beth White told the Indianapolis Star she will today begin to marry couples at the City-County Building in Downtown Indianapolis.

She said: “The clerk’s office will be open until at least 4:30p.m. this evening to issue licenses. I will also conduct short, civil ceremonies on a first-come, first-serve basis for a voluntary $50 contribution to the Indiana Youth Group.”

The state’s Attorney General, Republican Greg Zoeller, said he intends to appeal the ruling.

In the ruling, Judge Young wrote: “The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue.

“In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional.

“It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love.

“In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage – not a same-sex marriage.

“These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

The law previously stated “Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

Attorney Paul D. Castillo of Lambda Legal, said: “We’re thrilled that the court ruled in favour of liberty and equality for all same-sex couples and their children in Indiana.

“As Chief Judge Young recognized, these families, and so many others across the state, suffer significant harm when they are wrongly denied the freedom to marry the one unique person they love.

“Indiana now joins the momentum for nationwide marriage equality and Hoosiers can now proclaim they are on the right side of history.”

Same-sex marriage is now recognised in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

Earlier this year, the Indiana Senate advanced a bill which would constitutionally reinforce the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, but it did not pass into law.