Indianapolis — Same-sex couples eager to wed in Indiana after a federal judge overturned the state's ban on gay marriage are waiting to see how the judge responds to a request that he stay his order while the attorney general appeals.
Hundreds of gay couples lined up at courthouses across the state Wednesday for marriage licenses and impromptu weddings after U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state's ban was unconstitutional.
But the state moved swiftly to halt those unions, arguing in its request for a stay that it was "premature to require Indiana to change its definition of marriage" while it appeals the ruling.
Legal experts predicted Young would rule within a week on the request.Indiana law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the state has refused to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. Young's ruling changes that and also allows same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, receive pension benefits and have their partners listed as spouses on death certificates.
Young found that Indiana's ban on gay marriage violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution and bucked the tide of history, citing similar rulings in other federal court districts.
"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," Young wrote.
The ruling sent couples flocking to clerks' offices across the state in a quest for marriage licenses, but not all were successful. Some counties declined to issue licenses to same-sex couples until they received guidance from the attorney general's office.
That guidance, which came late Wednesday afternoon, instructed the five counties named in the lawsuits to comply with Young's order or face contempt of court. It urged the other 87 counties to "show respect for the judge and the orders that are issued."