It had been a long time since I’d been on a roller coaster. I used to love them as a kid. Now, the jostling around, the rise and fall of the coaster car (as well as my stomach) and the unexpected twists and turns just don’t seem appealing anymore. But the ride to marriage equality in Indiana this year was as intense as the biggest amusement park ride in the state.
The coaster cars pulled away from the gate January 7 with the opening of the General Assembly and a House Joint Resolution (HJR-3) that sought to amend the state constitution to reflect what at the time was state law: a legal marriage in Indiana could only be between one man and one woman.
The ride began in earnest with instant thrills of mass gatherings at the statehouse, protests, heated tweets from legislators (Thank you, Mike Delph!) and protesters being removed from legislative chambers.
Those on each side of the issue got their own adrenaline highs. The House amended the original version of the resolution by loosening the restrictions on civil unions. HJR-3 opponents felt the rush of the resolution not making it to the ballot in the fall for a statewide vote. Supporters felt the same rush with every vote that moved the resolution itself forward instead of watching it die in committee.
The final hill and curve (or so we thought) came when the Senate approved the amended version, thereby keeping the matter away from a public vote until at least 2016. (A state constitutional amendment must be approved by a General Assembly in two consecutive years before being presented to the public for a vote.)
The ride slowed and seemed destined for the gate.
But just like any good roller coaster ride, it’s that biggest hill that you can see from the admission line (but forget about once the ride starts) that always gets you. That “hill” appeared in June 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which essentially made marriage equal among all couples in the eyes of the federal government. The ascent up that hill began in late March when numerous couples banned together to file lawsuits against the state challenging the constitutionality of the state’s marriage law.
The coaster cars ascended very slowly to the top of that hill as the cases were filed, plaintiffs added, and oral arguments heard in U.S. District Court in May. From May to June, the cars sat still at the top of the hill.
Then, just short of one day to the year of the historic DOMA decision, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young declared Indiana’s marriage law unconstitutional —and the cars raced down the hill.
Same-sex couples rushed to county courthouses to fill out the paperwork, pay the fees, and get married. The Attorney General’s office rode into a sharp turn with a stay request and an immediate appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The coaster cars twisted and rolled as the 7th Circuit heard arguments in August and affirmed the district court’s ruling in September. The ride barreled through another round of stay requests and appeals, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A dark tunnel appeared as we waited for the nation’s highest court to decide if and when they would hear Indiana’s case on marriage equality.
The cars suddenly emerged from the tunnel, slowed and approached the gate on Oct. 6 when the U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear Indiana’s case and similar cases in four other states. Just like that the cars came to a stop and the marriages of all couples, heterosexual and homosexual alike, became legal in the state of Indiana.
Man, what a rush.