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Indiana AG: States had to defend their authority to define marriage

Statement as issued Wednesday by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who had authored amicus briefs, filed with the Supreme Court, in support of the authority of state governments to legally recognize the traditional marriage definition:

“While my office is duty bound to defend the authority of our state legislature and their decisions, I recognize that people have strongly held and vastly different views on the issue of marriage and ask that everyone show respect with civility to our Supreme Court and our constitutional system. Regardless of the different views people may hold, marriage should be a source of unity and not division,” Zoeller said.

On January 29, Zoeller’s office filed with the Supreme Court an amicus brief, authored by Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher in the U.S. v. Windsor case. The brief, which urged the Court to leave intact the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was joined, or signed on to, by state attorneys general of 16 other states. To express their legal positions to the U.S. Supreme Court in cases where they are not plaintiffs or defendants, states such as Indiana often file amicus briefs, also called friend-of-the-court briefs.

Fisher also co-authored an amicus brief that Zoeller’s office jointly filed along with the State of Virginia in the related case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, that was joined by 17 other states. That brief also voiced support for the authority of California to adopt Proposition 8, a voter-approved referendum that had legally defined marriage in the traditional way within that state but was struck down by a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the two cases on March 26 and 27 and issued its decisions today. The majority opinion in the Windsor case struck down the federal DOMA law as unconstitutional but confined the holding to those states where same-sex marriage already is lawful. The majority opinion in the Perry case found that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal the lower court’s decision that struck down the California law.

As the lawyer for state government, Zoeller’s office is reviewing the Supreme Court opinions and will advise state legislators, the AG’s law clients, as to the impact on Indiana statutes. Zoeller noted the two merits-stage amicus briefs were drafted and filed at no additional cost or expense to taxpayers and Solicitor General Fisher’s work on them was within the office’s regular budget, approved by the Legislature in advance.

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