News and Tribune

March 18, 2014

State AG explains position on marriage challenges in Indiana

Greg Zoeller explains that his office must defend state statute

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has refused to represent his state in federal court in cases where the state’s same-sex marriage ban has been challenged.

For Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, that course of action isn’t an option.

Zoeller elaborated on his stance at a press conference held Tuesday at the Clark County Government Building, and explained that his office has an obligation to defend the statutes passed in Indianapolis, for better or worse.

“In my office, I’m the office holder, but the office itself has an obligation to defend our statute,” Zoeller said. “I’ve always told people that as a Catholic, I oppose the death penalty. And yet, our office defends the legislative authority and our death penalty every day in criminal courts.

“So again, I’m not representing my own views, I’m not representing the advocacy of my own moral positions. The office that I serve has an obligation to defend the statutes of our state, the authority of the legislature and the decisions that the men and women who are elected to make those decisions make.”

In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear has hired a private law firm to appeal a ruling in district court that overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Zoeller said his office is obligated to fight all challenges at both the district court and appeals court levels.

“I can’t be the judge and jury to decide it’s unconstitutional,” Zoeller said. “I have an obligation as the lawyer for the state to represent those statutes to the best of my skill and ability, and all the men and women who serve in my office.”

The first challenge to Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban is rooted in Southern Indiana. On March 7, Louisville law firm Clay Daniel Walton & Adams announced it was representing four gay couples in Clark and Floyd counties who seek to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban and the recognition by Indiana of same-sex marriages performed legally performed in other states. The case was filed in the Southern District of Indiana in New Albany.

“All of these couples that we represent are like any other opposite-sex couples in the state of Indiana,” said Clay Daniel Walton & Adams attorney Dan Canon on March 7. “They live as married couples. They raise their kids together. They work and go to church in Indiana. They pay their taxes in the state of Indiana.”

Since then, at least four more challenges to the state’s same-sex marriage ban have been filed in federal courts, including one by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Zoeller said that the fight will go on in federal courts throughout the country until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue.

“That decision by the Supreme Court can’t happen without a lawyer representing the state and a lawyer representing the challenge,” Zoeller said. “I’ve never complained when people sue the state and challenge whether our statutes are constitutional. That’s appropriate. That’s how we check.”