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March 7 (Bloomberg) -- Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was challenged in federal court as gay couples continue a nationwide push against laws they say deny them equal rights.

Four gay couples sued to overturn the state’s “Defense of Marriage Act,” which bans same-sex marriage and says licenses from weddings in other states are void in Indiana, according to the complaint filed today in New Albany, Indiana. The couples say the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June that struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act invalidates the state’s law.

The Indiana measure “violates the United States Constitution, insofar as it denies same sex couples the rights, privileges, responsibilities, and immunities extended to similarly situated opposite-sex couples,” the couples said in the complaint.

The lawsuit names Indiana Governor Michael Pence, a Republican, as a defendant.

“As state government’s lawyer, I must defend the state’s authority to define marriage at the state level within Indiana’s borders,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, also a Republican, said in an e-mailed statement. “People of goodwill have sincere differences of opinion on the marriage definition, but I hope Hoosiers can remain civil to each other as this legal question is litigated in the federal court.”

He said he has successfully defended Indiana’s marriage-definition statute from other legal challenges in state court. Zoeller was one of the lead authors of friend-of-the-court filings in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman before the high court ruled last year on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and a case concerning California’s gay-marriage ban.

The case is Love v. Pence, 14-cv-00015, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana (New Albany).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in federal court in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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