Indiana’s Marriage Ban Struck Down; Marriages Can Begin Immediately
June 25th, 2014
Yup. As Timothy said, you can add Indiana to the list. Here’s the details. Federal District Judge Richard Young has ruled that Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses. And becaue Judge Young didn’t issue a stay, his ruling takes effect immediately. The county clerck in Indianapolis (Marion County) has already announced that they are issuing marriage licenses.
Indiana’s marriage ban is governed by state statute and not a constitutional amendment. Efforts to amend the state constitution have stalled in the Indiana legislature. In Judge Young’s 36-page ruling (PDF: 161KB/36 pages), neither party got everything they asked for. But the plaintiffs got all of the most important things they sought. In the process, Judge Young turned to Loving V. Virginia to rule that marriage was a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause:
The court agrees with Plaintiffs. “Fundamental rights, once recognized, cannot be denied to particular groups on the ground that these groups have historically been denied those rights.” In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d 384, 430 (Cal. 2008) (superseded by constitutional amendment). In fact, “the history of our Constitution . . . is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded.” United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 557 (1996). The reasoning in Henry v. Himes is particularly persuasive on this point:
The Supreme Court has consistently refused to narrow the scope of the fundamental right to marry by reframing a plaintiff’s asserted right to marry as a more limited right that is about the characteristics of the couple seeking marriage. . . [T]he Court consistently describes a general ‘fundamental right to marry’ rather than ‘the right to interracial marriage,’ ‘the right to inmate marriage,’ or ‘the right of people owing child support to marry.’
No.1:14-cv-129, 2014 WL 1418395, *7 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 14, 2014) (emphasis added) (citing Loving, 388 U.S. at 12; Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 94-96 (1987); Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 383-86).
The court finds Loving v. Virginia best illustrates that concept. In that case, the Court held that Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage violated the plaintiffs’ rights under the Due Process Clause. 388 U.S. at 12. The Loving Court stated “[t]he freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” and further recognized that, “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man.'” Id. If the Court in Loving had looked only to the “traditional” approach to marriage prior to 1967, the Court would not have recognized that there was a fundamental right for Mildred and Richard Loving to be married, because the nation’s history was replete with statutes banning interracial marriages between Caucasians and African Americans. Notably, the Court did not frame the issue of interracial marriage as a “new” right, but recognized the fundamental right to marry regardless of that “traditional” classification.
Judge Young also found that Indiana’s marriage laws were subject to strict scrutiny when judging Indiana’s marriage law under the Due Process Clause, which means that the burden to show that the law was constitutional rests with the state, and not the plaintiffs. He then ruled that the state failed to prove that the state’s marriage laws protected the state’s interest in promoting procreation:
Defendants have failed to show that the law is “closely tailored” to that interest. Indiana’s marriage laws are both over- and under-inclusive. The marriage laws are under-inclusive because they only prevent one subset of couples, those who cannot naturally conceive children, from marrying. For example, the State’s laws do not consider those post-menopausal women, infertile couples, or couples that do not wish to have children. Additionally, Indiana specifically allows first cousins to marry once they reach the age that procreation is not a realistic possibility. …
On the other hand, Indiana’s marriage laws are over-inclusive in that they prohibit some opposite-sex couples, who can naturally and unintentionally procreate, from marriage. For example, relatives closer in degree than second cousins can naturally and unintentionally procreate; however, they still may not marry. Most importantly, excluding same-sex couples from marriage has absolutely no effect on opposite-sex couples, whether they will procreate, and whether such couples will stay together if they do procreate. Therefore, the law is not closely tailored, and the Defendants have failed to meet their burden.
While Judge Young held that Indiana’s marriage law was subject to strict scrutiny for Due Process claims, he also ruled, on a technicality, that Equal Protection claims are still subject to rational basis, although “The court agrees with Plaintiffs that it is likely time to reconsider this issue, especially in light of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Labs, …(interpreting Windsor to mean that gay and lesbian persons constitute a suspect class).” This means that the burden of proof rests with the plaintiffs in arguing that Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban violates the Equal Protection clause. He then ruled that the plaintiffs met that challenge:
The court finds that there is no rational basis to exclude same-sex couples. The purpose of marriage -– to keep the couple together for the sake of their children –- is served by marriage regardless of the sexes of the spouses. In order to fit under Johnson’s rationale, Defendants point to the one extremely limited difference between opposite-sex and same-sex couples, the ability of the couple to naturally and unintentionally procreate, as justification to deny same-sex couples a vast array of rights. The connection between these rights and responsibilities and the ability to conceive unintentionally is too attenuated to support such a broad prohibition. See Romer, 517 U.S. at 635.
Furthermore, the exclusion has no effect on opposite-sex couples and whether they have children or stay together for those children. Defendants proffer no reason why excluding same-sex couples from marriage benefits opposite-sex couples. The court concludes that there simply is no rational link between the two.
Judge Young also ruled that Indiana’s prohibition on recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages also violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Noting the unanimity of other Federal District Court decisions since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor v. US decision last summer, Judge Young concluded:
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. Today, the “injustice that [we] had not earlier known or understood” ends. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2689 (citing Marriage Equality Act, 2011 N.Y. Laws 749). Because “[a]s the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.” Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 579.
The state attorney general’s office has already announced that they will appeal the ruling.