Attorney General requests stay of gay marriage court decision

The following is a press release issued Friday by the Indiana Attorney General's office.

INDIANAPOLIS – As the State’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling against Indiana’s marriage law continues, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office has asked a federal appeals court to weigh in and decide whether the lower court’s order will be stayed or not during the appeal.

The AG’s Office noted the confusion and inconsistency for the public that has occurred since Wednesday as most county clerks are issuing marriage licenses to – and performing marriages for – same sex couples, but a few clerks are not. After the U.S. District Court’s ruling Wednesday finding Indiana’s marriage law unconstitutional, the Attorney General’s Office filed an emergency motion for stay, expecting the district court would rule upon it immediately.

That has not yet happened, so the AG’s Office today filed a separate emergency motion for stay in the higher court, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

In its filing, the State of Indiana notes that without a stay, any same-sex marriages granted now might have their legal validity questioned later if the United States Supreme Court eventually were to rule in favor of states in upcoming legal challenges to marriage laws. The State argues that a delay pending completion of the appeal would cause less harm to applicants than the legal uncertainty that could arise later for those seeking to obtain marriage licenses now.

On Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Evansville, Chief Judge Richard L. Young ruled in three lawsuits challenging Indiana’s traditional marriage definition law. As lawyer for the State of Indiana, the Attorney General’s Office is appealing the court’s order and late Wednesday asked Chief Judge Young to stay his ruling pending appeal. If the State’s emergency motion for stay were granted, then the traditional marriage definition law would be reinstated and same-sex marriages would not be granted. The State’s emergency motion for stay of the ruling is fully briefed and a ruling from U.S. District Court had been expected Thursday or early today.

But with no ruling issued yet by the district court either granting or denying the stay motion, confusion has ensued, with marriage licenses being granted at some county courthouses but not others. The district court’s order took effect immediately Wednesday and gave the defendants no time to prepare or update licensing forms. To get a decision rapidly on whether or not clerks must continue to issue same-sex marriage licenses pending appeal of the underlying lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office has asked for a stay from the 7th Circuit.