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The Scoop

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Verbatim: Attorney general on appeals arguments

The office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued this news release today:

INDIANAPOLIS – A lower court ruling was incorrectly decided and the Legislature is within its authority to define marriage-licensing requirements in the traditional way, the State of Indiana argued in a federal appeals court today.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago today heard oral argument in the State’s appeal of a legal challenge to Indiana’s marriage licensing definition. In its appeal, the State argued the June 25 ruling of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Richard Young that invalidated Indiana’s statute should be reversed and the injunction lifted. Representing the state defendants in the lawsuit, Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher addressed the 7th Circuit and fielded questions from the three-judge panel about Indiana’s statutory authority to define marriage for licensing and regulatory purposes.

“The argument in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is the one time in the case where the lawyers can speak directly to the judges; and vigorous questioning by judges is how the appellate process is supposed to work. Since the larger legal question could end up before the United States Supreme Court, this 7th Circuit hearing is one important step in the process. As the state government’s lawyers, my office has a duty in this appeal to defend Indiana’s law. While this case stirs strong emotions on all sides, we urge everyone to show civility toward each other and respect for the court,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.

Under its duty to defend the laws the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature passed from lawsuits that plaintiffs’ lawyers file -- both in trial court and on appeal -- the Indiana Attorney General’s Office is providing defense of the marriage statute out of its regular office budget the Legislature approved in advance. The case is assigned to a salaried attorney who does not charge billable hours, and Indiana is not using outside counsel to defend its statute. Also participating in the appeal are the Boone and Allen county clerks who are represented by their own counsel.

Taking the case under advisement, the 7th Circuit panel will rule at a later date on the constitutionality of state marriage statutes. Today the court heard a scheduled 20 minutes per side in Baskin et al. v. Bogan et al., the State’s appeal of Chief Judge Young’s ruling in the legal challenge to Indiana’s statute. The 7th Circuit today also heard oral argument in another case, Wolf et al. v. Walker et al., Wisconsin’s appeal of a legal challenge to that state’s marriage statute. The 7th Circuit hears appeals of rulings from federal district courts in Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois. Earlier challenges to state-level marriage laws out of the 4th Circuit and 10th Circuit federal appeals courts are currently being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Under the 7th Circuit’s June 27 stay, Indiana’s longstanding statute remains in effect and county clerks in the 92 Indiana counties are prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to or performing marriage solemnization ceremonies for applicants who are not opposite-sex couples. The Indiana Attorney General’s Office will notify county clerk’s offices of any ruling in the 7th Circuit case and provide guidance to clerks as warranted.

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