News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 27, 2014

Still fighting for equality

Protesters gather in Brazil to oppose denial of marriage licenses

TERRE HAUTE — Clay County’s continuing refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Friday sparked a public protest outside the courthouse in Brazil.

A group of protesters said they will “continue to picket until something is changed.”

But they will have to wait even longer. A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday afternoon issued a stay of the federal court ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Charles Terry, a protester who tried to obtain a marriage license in Clay County after the state ban on gay marriage was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge on Wednesday, said he called the clerk’s office and was told “they couldn’t talk about it due to a lawyer’s recommendation.”

Terry said that at 9 a.m., he went to the Clerk’s office with his partner of nine years and still had no luck obtaining the license.

“So we left and got posterboard and have been here ever since,” Terry said as he waved at a car that honked in a show of support for about 10 protesters present at 1:30 p.m.

Standing next to Terry was his longtime friend, Ashley Rogers, who said she attended because she supports Terry and all other gay couples.

“If I die, I don’t want to leave my partner alone,” Terry said, while tearing up and finally embracing Rogers. “I have been robbed of my rights. I should be entitled to a marriage — I pay taxes and I own property.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Young deemed the Indiana law banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional, as it violates the Equal Protection Clause.

Signs stating “We want equality,” “Denied marriage rights in Clay County” and “Honk for equality” turned the heads of motorists traveling on U.S. 40 — some honked and waved, some stared silently and others gave disapproving looks. Terry said they’ve had a “handful” of motorists go by shouting derogatory slurs at the protesters.

“People, for the most part, have been overwhelmingly supportive,” Rogers said. “There is a mostly positive atmosphere here.”

Shelly Johnson walked up to the protesters and shook each of their hands and told them that what they are doing is important for human rights.

“My sister just got married in Terre Haute to her partner of 11 years,” Johnson said. “I sat and cried from happiness after I found out that gay marriage was no longer banned. I was so sad watching her not able to marry the person she had been with for so long. Love is love and everyone has a right to be with the one they trust. It is time for every county to get on board.”

Clay County was one of only a small number of Indiana counties that was still refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the only one in west-central Indiana, prior to the Friday afternoon stay. Clerk Vickie Wheeler had said she would not issue licenses until she had an opportunity to consult with the county attorney, who was on vacation.

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