February 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

The U.S. Supreme Court has for now signaled that it’s not interested in reopening the question of the legality of marriage equality.

The high court in December refused to hear a case from Indiana that Christian nationalist groups hoped would be a vehicle to weaken or perhaps overturn the court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which had the effect of extending marriage equality nationwide.

The Indiana case was brought by same-sex couples who wanted to ensure that they could both be listed on a child’s birth certificate as parents. Among the plaintiffs was Jackie Phillips-Stackman, a police officer in Indianapolis. Phillips-Stackman and her wife Lisa had a daughter in October 2015 and were told that both women could not be listed on the birth certificate, even though they are legally married.

“I was just so angry when I got off the phone,” Phillips-Stackman told the Indianapolis Star. “And then I started doing some research.”

Phillips-Stackman learned that another couple, Ashlee and Ruby Henderson, was already fighting in court for the same right. She and her wife joined the legal challenge. Seven couples eventually joined the litigation.

A federal court in Indiana ruled in favor of the same-sex parents, holding that an Indiana law that limited who could be considered parents on legal documents was unconstitutional. On appeal, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court upheld the decision.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. The court’s refusal brings the matter to a close.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, the attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Star that the high court was right to turn away the case.

“It’s a major victory that is going to keep the same-sex families together, and the children born to these marriages will have two parents to love and protect them,” she said.

Phillips-Stackman also hailed the end of the case.

“It is such a relief, I can’t even begin to describe it,” Phillips-Stackman said. “You spend so much time being very kind of angry at your state and angry at those that keep wanting to fight your equality as a parent, and you just get in this fight mode. So to know that that is finally over and that we can take a breath is so relieving.” (Box v. Henderson)