INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge's lengthy deliberations on whether to stay his ruling recognizing a same-sex Indiana couple's marriage could signal that a broader decision is coming, legal experts say.
The state asked U.S. District Judge Richard Young for the stay on May 8, the same day he granted a preliminary injunction requiring Indiana to recognize the marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney.
The state also is asking the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to review Young's decision, which applies just to the one couple — not to others who were legally wed elsewhere and also are seeking to have Indiana recognize their marriages.
Quasney is terminally ill with ovarian cancer. The Munster couple, who have two young daughters, were married in Massachusetts last year and have argued that lack of such recognition would endanger Sandler's ability to collect Social Security and other death benefits.
Marriage law expert Seymour J. Reisman said it is "absolutely unusual" for a judge to take so much time to grant a stay.
"The purpose of a stay order is immediate relief," said Reisman, a partner in the New York law firm Reisman Peirez Reisman and Capobianco LLP. "When I say immediately, certainly no more than a week."
The delay makes Reisman suspect Young may simply skip the stay order and decide whether to throw out Indiana's gay marriage ban.
"It's clear to me from what he's done he's not going to do what the state wants," Reisman said.
Gay marriage supporters hope the tide will continue in their favor. Bans have been struck down in five states since Indiana's ban was argued in federal court in early April. Those states are Arkansas, Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
"We are certainly optimistic that Indiana's marriage ban will be struck down as unconstitutional," said Paul Castillo, an attorney for the national gay rights group Lambda Legal, which represents five couples challenging Indiana's same-sex marriage ban.
Bryan Corbin, spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, declined to speculate on the timing of a stay or a ruling.
"It is up to the court to determine in what order it rules on the motion for stay and motions for summary judgment. We cannot speculate as to the sequence or timing," Corbin said.
This year, laws banning same-sex marriage have been thrown out in a dozen states, a trend Young took note of when he ordered Indiana to recognize Sandler and Quasney's marriage.
"The court is not persuaded that, at this stage, Indiana's anti-recognition law will suffer a different fate than those around the country," Young wrote at the time.
Attorneys for both sides expect the lawsuit and several like it throughout the country to eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court. Rulings striking down gay-marriage bans in Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia are already being appealed.
Castillo said it's important for the Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage "because we currently have a patchwork of laws."
"We need consistency across the country," he said.