Sadly, it seems to be a stop-start process when it comes to legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S.: only three days after happy gay couples began tying the knot in Indiana, the judge's ruling striking down Indiana's gay marriage ban has been halted by a U.S. federal appeals court. Which means not only that gay couples will have to wait for equal rights, again, but also that those who were married in the state over the last three days don't know where they stand.
Only three days ago, federal judges struck down same-sex marriage bans in both Utah and Indiana, finding — as many other states have — that the bans violate the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. In Indiana, this meant that marriage licenses were issued pretty much immediately. By Thursday, 424 marriage licenses were issued by the Marion County Clerk’s office to same-same couples in the state; according to the AP, that number went up to 544 by Friday night.
As Indiana couples rushed to celebrate their freedom to finally marry, though, Attorney General Greg Zoeller rushed to do to do the opposite: put the marriages on hold. On Friday, a three-judge panel in the 7th Circuit in Chicago granted his request for a stay, pending the appeal of the ruling. Said the panel in their release:
The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has granted the State of Indiana’s emergency motion for stay in the recent ruling on Indiana’s marriage law.This means the order Wednesday by U.S. District Court Richard L. Young, finding Indiana’s marriage definition unconstitutional, is now halted, pending resolution of this appeal in the 7th Circuit. ... During the stay of the district court’s ruling, the parties will have the opportunity to submit their arguments to the 7th Circuit in the appeal of the underlying lawsuits challenging Indiana’s marriage law, but Chief Judge [Richard] Young’s order of Wednesday will not be in effect.
The ruling, though common —in fact, a similar thing happened in Wisconsin just two weeks ago — leaves those who were married earlier this week in a state of legal confusion. In the past, Indiana has refused to recognize gay marriages that have been performed in states where it's legal; so whether Indiana will recognize the marriage licenses issued during the period that the it's own ban was struck down, remains to be seen.
Regardless, as an earlier ACLU petition opposing a stay argued, issuing a stay is not only frustrating, it's harmful. Said they in a petition, according to the Indystar:
"Ultimately the question is what interest does the public in Indiana have in maintaining what this court recognizes is profound 'injustice'? The Hoosier public has no such interest.Any harm that the state faces is outweighed by the harm that a stay would cause the plaintiffs ... Discrimination against same-sex couples 'demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects' and 'humiliates' their children ...This court's decision removed that harm. To reinstate it through the granting of the stay would be to reinstate this irreparable harm.