Indiana court hears gay rights case

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 09 2003 11:00 PM ET

The rights of same-sex couples have again come before an Indiana court. A state employee appeared Tuesday before the Indiana court of appeals, challenging the denial of her request for paid leave to attend the funeral of her same-sex partner's father. Last week a Marion superior court judge heard arguments in a case that three same-sex couples have brought challenging the state marriage law as unconstitutional. The same attorneys--Thomas Fisher of the attorney general's office and Ken Falk of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union--are heading both cases, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Fisher said the Family and Social Services Administration's denial of funeral leave for caseworker Jana Cornell is not unfair or unconstitutional. "This is not a case about equal rights. It is a case about special rights," he said. "What the plaintiff wants is a special rule for homosexuals, not a neutral rule for heterosexuals and homosexuals."

But Falk said the state already allows funeral leave in cases that extend beyond marriage and blood family, such as an unrelated individual living in the same household. He said the denial of leave for Cornell violates the "equal privileges and immunities" clause of the Indiana constitution. Fisher said the state funeral-leave policy is based on marriage because it is an easily definable standard already recognized in a number of other state policies and laws regarding benefits.

In the case challenging the state's marriage law, Judge S.K. Reid heard arguments March 31 on the state's motion to dismiss the suit. Her ruling on the motion is not expected until May at the earliest.

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