Wedding Bands and Bans: The Fight For and Against Same Sex Marriage in Indiana(polis)


You are standing in front of the City-County Building at 200 E. Washington Street. On June 25, 2014, it was witness to a historic moment in Indiana history. After news broke that a federal court judge ruled Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, LGBT+ couples - some with their children in tow - flocked to this office. This was an important victory for same-sex couples fighting for recognition and the same rights as heterosexual couples in the state. A line stretched out the door, comprised of couples waiting to be legally wed after being denied the right. By the time the office closed at 11pm, the county clerk’s office had processed 250 marriage licenses and performed 186 ceremonies. The next day looked quite the same, with an additional 174 licenses processed. But on June 27, the state’s request for a stay was granted, halting these marriages during the case’s appeal. While it was an upsetting delay for marriage equality, based on the contentious history of same-sex marriage in Indiana, it was hardly surprising.


In 1986, Indiana passed a law banning same-sex marriage. In 1997, the state followed up with another law prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. Nationally, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prevented federal recognition of any same-sex marriages, even from states where it was legal. As if all this wasn’t enough to obstruct gay couples from marrying, in the past decade there were several attempts by state legislators to amend Indiana’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. These efforts started in 2005, and resumed in 2011 when Republicans regained control of the legislature. Debates about the amendment continued into 2014, but the proposal never made it onto the ballot.


On October 6, 2014, a historic court decision made a significant step forwards in same-sex marriage in the state. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear five cases related to same-sex marriage, including Baskin v. Bogan from Indiana. Their refusal meant that the June decision of the federal court held, and that same-sex marriage was again legal in Indiana. In June 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.