INDIANAPOLIS - A federal judge in Indiana ruled Wednesday that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state's ban violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause in a mixed ruling involving lawsuits from several gay couples.
Judge Young wrote in the ruling:
"The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue. In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue as reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional...
"In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage – not a same-sex marriage. 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 Marion County Clerk's Office said it's prepared to issue marriage licenses immediately.
"We've been preparing for this for a couple of weeks now. Even though the license currently says 'bride and groom,' couples should ignore that," Clerk Beth White said. "They can go online at our website indy.gov and go ahead and start the application, come into my office. We will stay open as long as it takes this evening."
White said she would conduct short civil ceremonies Wednesday on a first-come, first-served basis.
"All couples seeking a marriage license will be treated with dignity and respect," White said. "We expect it to be a pretty good volume. We're very happy and ready. We want people to come in and exercise this right they now have."
The Indiana attorney general's office says it will appeal. Just a few hours after the federal ruling, the attorney general's office asked the judge to stay the ruling, the Associated Press reported.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's Press Secretary, Kara Brooks, issued the following statement on the governor's behalf:
"Governor Pence supports the Attorney General’s efforts to appeal the federal court’s ruling and defend Indiana’s right to define the institution of marriage for the residents of our state. Because the Governor believes in the rule of law, the State of Indiana will comply with the federal court’s order as this case moves through the appeals process."
The Roman Catholic Bishops of Indiana issued a statement decrying the court's decision.
"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," part of the statement read.
Federal courts across the country have struck down gay marriage bans recently, but many of those rulings are on hold pending appeal. Attorneys on both sides of the issue expect the matter to eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court.