7th Circuit Court

7th Circuit Court

Landscape

The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit covers three states: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The circuit court is the highest federal court within that circuit - although, of course, its decisions are subject to potential review by the Supreme Court - and so a ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for a case out of one of the states would be binding to each of the states within the circuit.

On September 4, 2014, a ruling from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the freedom to marry in Wisconsin and Indiana, upholding lower court rulings in Indiana's consolidated trio of marriage cases (Baskin v. Zoeller, Lee v. Pence and Midori Fujii v. State of Indiana) and Wisconsin's Walker v. Wolf. On October 6, the United States Supreme Court denied review of these cases, meaning that same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry in Wisconsin and Indiana. Read more about the Baskin case, the Walker case, and see the other federal cases in each of the 7th Circuit cases making the case for marriage:

Walker v. Wolf

What's Happening:

On September 4, 2014, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the freedom to marry in this federal case seeking marriage in Wisconsin. The defendants in the case have filed a petition seeking review from the United States Supreme Court, and the case will be considered at the September 29 conference. 

Key Excerpt from the Ruling (June 2014):

"This case is not about whether marriages between same-sex couples are consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of a particular religion, whether such marriages are moral or immoral or whether they are something that should be encouraged or discouraged. It is not even about whether the plaintiffs in this case are as capable as opposite-sex couples of maintaining a committed and loving relationship or raising a family together. Quite simply,this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by theUnited States Constitution." - Judge Barbara Crabb

Case Background:

On February 3, 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of four same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in Wisconsin. The lawsuit seeks to overturn a constitutional amendment passed in Wisconsin in 2006 limiting marriage to different-sex couples, as well as strike down a "marriage evasion law" that penalizes Wisconsin couples from marrying out of state. Since same-sex couples are not permitted to marry in the state of Wisconsin, this law leaves same-sex couples no option or way to legally marry and live in their home state.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four same-sex couples seeking to marry in Wisconsin: Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson from Milwaukee; Virginia Wolf and Carol Schumacher in Eau Claire; Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann from Milwaukee; and Judith “Judi” Trampf and Katharina "Katy" Heyning in Madison.

On June 6, 2014, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb overturned Wisconsin's discriminatory state ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Crabb did not stay her ruling, but also did not immediately issue an order blocking the enforcement of the order, leaving it unclear whether same-sex couples could immediately marry. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed the decision in July 2014, and the state filed their opening brief in late July.

Bogan v. Baskin

(Consolidated with Lee v. Pence and Midori Fujii v. State of Indiana)

What's Happening:

On September 4, 2014, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the freedom to marry in this federal case seeking marriage in Indiana. The defendants in the case have filed a petition seeking review from the United States Supreme Court, and the case will be considered at the September 29 conference.

Key Excerpt from the Ruling (May 2014 and June 2014):

"The court recognizes that the issues with which it is confronted are highly contentious and provoke strong emotions both in favor and against same-sex marriages. The court’s ruling today is not a final resolution of the merits of the case – it is a preliminary look, or in other words, a best guess by the court as to what the outcome will be. Currently, all federal district court cases decided post-Windsor indicate that Plaintiffs are likely to prevail." - Judge Richard L. Young

"The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue. In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions – laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional." - Judge Richard L. Young

Case Background:

On March 13, 2014, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in Indiana. On March 31, the organization filed an amended complaint, seeking immediate respect for the marriage of a terminally ill woman and her wife. 

The plaintiffs include: Rae Baskin and Esther Fuller, who have been together for 24 years; Bonne Everly and Linda Judkins, together for over 13 years; and Dawn Lynn Carver and Pamela Eanes, together for 17 years. All of the couples are unmarried. The named plaintiff, Rae Baskin, explained, "We just want what everyone else has in Indiana – a real, honest and legal marriage. We are a family. Esther loves me unconditionally and I can’t imagine life without her.”

The other two cases that have been consolidated with Baskin v. Bogan for the appeal are Officer Pamela Lee v. Pence, filed by Indiana Equality Action on behalf of first responders seeking respect for their marriages  and Midori Fujii v. State of Indiana, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Indiana.

On June 25, 2014, U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, striking down Indiana's ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The ruling was not stayed, and same-sex couples began marrying immediately. 

On June 27, 2014, Judge Young consolidated the case (at the time, Baskin v. Bogan) with two other marriage cases, Lee v. Pence and Midori Fujii v. State of Indiana, setting the briefing schedule in the appeal before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The opening brief is due on August 6, with the appellees' brief due on September 5 and a final reply brief due September 19. 

The ruling followed a previous decision, from April 10, 2014, where Judge Young ruled that Indiana must respect the marriage of a same-sex couple from Munster, Indiana - Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, finalizing that ruling on May 8, without granting a stay. One of the spouses, Niki, was diagnosed in 2009 with ovarian cancer and is terminally ill. This previous ruling has been appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and a request for a stay has been filed. 

Other Federal Cases in the 7th Circuit

< Back to Litigation page