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Same-sex couples rush to get married after judge strikes down Ind. gay marriage ban

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It was a rush to the courthouse on Wednesday for many same-sex couples in our area.

A federal judge overturned Indiana's ban on gay marriage.

However, county clerks and the state attorney general are still trying to figure out exactly what this judge's ruling means.

Right now, though, it means same-sex couples can get married, and it's all legal.

The concern is what happens when Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller files an appeal, and if that causes another judge to issue something called a "stay" in the case.

5-year-old Sophia Bovo-Schmokel couldn't hide her excitement on Wednesday.

"I think it's wonderful that my papa and dada are getting married," Sophia exclaimed.

"Just so that we know she's going to be taken care of, and there's going to be no battles between anybody fighting for anything with us," said Greg Bovo.

Bovo and David Schmokel, who have been together 26 years, were the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in St. Joseph County, and they officially tied the knot on Wednesday.

"We knew it would happen," said Schmokel. "It was just going to be a waiting process."

Even after the federal judge's order came down around noon, the couple ran into hiccups when they called the county clerk's office.

"Frustrating, very frustrating," described Schmokel. "It felt like our rights weren't being honored here in St. Joe County."

They weren't alone. The phone rang off the hook. That's because the clerk wasn't sure what to do.

She worried the licenses might not be legal if a judge issues a stay in the case after Indiana's attorney general files an appeal. By 2 p.m., she talked to the attorney general, who says that's for a judge to sort out. And today's ruling means right now, she legally can't deny anyone a marriage license.

Kathy Saunder and Sharon Stanley also got a marriage license on Wednesday and went right to the courthouse in Mishawaka, because they heard a judge was available.

"I can't believe that it's happening while I'm still alive," said Stanley. "In Indiana - it's pretty amazing. It's about time. I mean, to be denied rights for so long to marry someone you love is stupid."

The St. Joseph County clerk's office issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that had instructions for applying:

"Couples may apply at the main office in the basement of the Court House at 101 S Main, South Bend and at the County Services Annex, 219 Lincoln Way West Mishawaka. Office hours are8:00 to 4:30 MondaythroughFriday. The couple must apply in the county they reside in or if out of state in the county they will be getting married in. The cost is $18.00 for Indiana residents and $60.00 for out of state couples. Proof of residency and a valid form of Identification must be shown. There is no waiting period for the license and it is valid for 60 days."

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson says two marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples Wednesday - one in Elkhart and one in Goshen.

In Pulaski County, the clerk's office is issuing same-sex marriage license after consulting with the county's attorney. As of 3:45 p.m., only one person called asking questions, but no one came in asking for a marriage license.

Marshall, LaGrange and Starke counties are also awaiting word from the Indiana AG on how to proceed.

The following is a statement from the Catholic Bishops of Indiana on the ruling:

The dignity of the human person, rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching. The Church upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, whom we accept and love as our brothers and sisters.At the same time, the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage as a natural union established by God between one man and one woman, intended towards the establishment of a family in which children are born, raised, and nurtured. This is not simply a matter of belief. It is at the very heart of the nature of marriage. Thus, it is not within the power of any institution, religious or secular, to redefine marriage since it is God who is its author.Today's decision by Richard L. Young, Chief Judge United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana,to redefine the institution of marriage as an emotional partnership between two consenting adults regardless of gender ignores this fundamental and natural truth of marriage and opens its definition to the whims of public opinion.With deep respect for all our brothers and sisters, we nevertheless see no basis in law or in nature for any definition of marriage that seeks to expand it beyond that of a covenant between one man and one woman. Our position on this matter seeks only the common good of all men and women as well as the health and well being of families.As pastors, we will continue to preach and teach the truth of marriage as it is ordered by God, encouraging all people to embrace the fullness of that truth, while upholding the dignity of all persons. We will continue to work through the Indiana Catholic Conference to encourage our legislators and judges to uphold this truth as well. We urge all involved in this issue to conduct themselves with mutual respect and civility in public discourse.

INDIANAPOLIS A federal judge struck down Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday in a ruling that immediately allowed gay couples to wed.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE JUDGE'S RULING

The court clerk in Marion County, home to Indianapolis, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple about an hour after U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state law violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause.

"Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana," he wrote. "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."

The Indiana attorney general's office said it would appeal the ruling but declined further comment.

The ruling involves lawsuits filed by several gay couples, who along with the state had asked for a summary judgment in the case. Young's ruling was mixed but generally sided with the couples and prevents the state from enforcing the ban.

"Indiana now joins the momentum for nationwide marriage equality and Hoosiers can now proclaim they are on the right side of history," Lambda Legal, the national gay rights group that represented five of the couples, said in a statement.

The decision came the same day the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling overturning Utah's gay marriage ban, marking the first time a federal appeals court has ruled that states must allow gay marriage. That ruling puts the issue a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A movement to ban gay marriage in the Indiana Constitution faltered during this legislative session when lawmakers removed language about civil unions from the proposed amendment. That means the soonest the issue could appear on a ballot would be 2016.

Local impact

The St. Joseph County Clerk's Office says it is now issuing licenses to anyone who wants to get married.

"Chief Judge Young has found Indiana's traditional marriage license unconstitutional. My office must comply with his decision," St. Joseph County Clerk Terri J. Rethlake stated in a news release.

Marshall, LaGrange, Starke and Elkhart county marriage license offices tell us they have not been given instructions on how to proceed. Spokesman Bryan Corbin with the Indiana Attorney General's Office says attorneys are still analyzing Judge Richard Young'sWednesdayruling and will advise county clerks on what procedures they should follow in its wake.

Corbin says the state will "quickly" ask Young to stay his order pending appeal.

In South Bend, Guerrilla Gay Bar is celebrating the ruling with a Wednesday-night party at Woochi -- the Japanese fusion restaurant and bar in downtown South Bend. That starts at 6 p.m.

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