Under the sweltering midday sun in Lafayette, a crowd of more than 50 people wiped perspiration from their brows as they waited for Indiana marriage advocates to address them.
But one of the case’s plaintiffs, Melody Betterman-Layne, said it was only the late summer weather that was causing them to sweat – they weren’t sweating the 7th Circuit’s decision.
“Today we’re heading to Chicago because tomorrow the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing our case,” she said. “And we feel really good about that. We feel calm. We feel like the right is on our side. And that pretty soon none of us are going to have to play that little game where you go from state to state and you say ‘Are we married here?’ None of us are going to have to do that very much longer, we hope.”
Betterman-Layne and her wife Tara were initially worried employees of their company might blanch at the thought of being tangential to the marriage suit and its resulting publicity, but she says employees supported the move.
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis, a Republican, says he *has* gotten push back – including from other leaders in his party.
“Actually, it was another elected official," Dennis says. "And I was in conversation with another male and this elected official walked by and said ‘What are you guys doing – planning your marriage?”
Still, Dennis told the crowd his two decades as a Lafayette police officer formed his views on the subject when he saw gay couples unable to vouch for each other in hospitals and saw drunks amble out of downtown bars late at night, heading for inevitable confrontations with LGBT individuals who’d congregate near the Tippecanoe County courthouse.
“On midnight dates, the bars would generally let out between two or three and that’s when the folks that had drank their courage would decide to go to the courthouse and confront our gay community. And that would oftentimes end up in physical violence. And I obviously would be called, it was my district. So that happened very routinely. It would happen several times a week,” the mayor says.
On Monday, though, the confrontations pitted GLBT rights advocates against the state’s dogma. Indianapolis City-County Counselor Zach Adamson – the city’s first openly gay counselor -- told a group in the capital he hoped the 7th Circuit would do as many courts before it have.
“The brave plaintiffs in this case represent every loving, committed, same-sex couple in this state who just wants to have the protections that other couples have under the law once they are married," Adamson says. "I am hopeful the court, like 38 other federal courts, will recognize marriages like mine.”
Still, supporters of the state’s same-sex marriage ban appeared undaunted. Eric Miller is with the group Advance America, which opposes any union of two people of a like gender.
“I believe the Bible is clear," Miller told Network Indiana. "The Bible historically has been interpreted that – it’s very clear – that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.”
But increasingly, Miller finds himself up against families – especially since the state allowed same-sex unions for three days in June, resulting in hundreds of commitment ceremonies. Henry Greene and his partner Glenn Funkhouser joined the caravan to Chicago Monday with their son Casey, whom they adopted out of foster care a decade ago. Greene addressed the Lafayette crowd as the two dads stood with their hands on their son’s shoulders.
“It’s just so ironic to us that ten years to the day after this little guy came bouncing into our lives, that we’ll find ourselves in court fighting for his family to have the exact same legal rights and protection and dignity and respect that all Hoosier families deserve,” Greene says.
Even as the laws are in flux, the language used by the people most directly affected by them has changed. The desperation is easing – replaced by confidence and by heretofore unthinkable terms, like the one used proudly by Greg Hasty, who embraced his husband CJ before the Lafayette gathering.
“When we started this journey, we used to play the name game," Hasty says. "What is he? That’s your friend or that’s your roommate or that’s your partner. Today he’s my husband.”