Appeals court halts ruling that overturned Indiana gay marriage ban pending high court action



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INDIANAPOLIS — Same-sex couples hoping to get married in Indiana will have to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court addresses the question of whether gay marriage bans are constitutional.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Monday approved a stay sought by Indiana's attorney general of the appeals court's Sept. 4 ruling that found Indiana and Wisconsin's gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional.

The Wisconsin and Indiana cases shifted to the 7th Circuit as a combined case after both states appealed separate June ruling by federal judges which found their bans unconstitutional.

Wisconsin had not requested a stay based on the wording of the ruling issued by a federal judge in its case, but the two states asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to take up their combined case to decide once and for all whether gay marriage should be legal in all 50 states.

Gay marriage is on the high court's Sept. 29 agenda for a closed-door conference, but it's unclear if the justices will decide then whether to take up the issue. The justices could put off deciding whether to take up gay marriage until January and still be able to issue a decision by late June.

Indiana attorney general's office spokesman Bryan Corbin said in a statement Monday that the 7th Circuit's stay will remain in effect until the high court "decides whether to accept the government defendants' appeal."

"With the status quo still in place, Indiana's 92 county clerks still are required to continue to follow Indiana's existing statute and can issue marriage licenses to opposite-sex applicants only," Corbin said.

The appeals court ruling in the Indiana and Wisconsin case came the same day that 32 states asked the Supreme Court to settle whether gay marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts. Since last year, the vast majority of federal rulings have declared same-sex marriages bans unconstitutional.

Kyle Megrath, the marriage coordinator with Hoosiers Unite for Marriage, said the stay issued Monday had been expected. He noted that both Indiana and the plaintiffs challenging the state's gay marriage ban have asked the Supreme Court to hear the case on appeal.

"We remain hopeful that they will do so and that they will embrace the legal sentiment that these bans harm Hoosier and American families and clearly violate our Constitution," Megrath said in his statement.

Although Indiana's gay marriage ban remains in effect, the state has agreed to recognize two out-of-state marriages involving same-sex couples who live in Indiana. Those two cases involve two lesbian couples where one of the women's partners is battling ovarian cancer.

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