A federal judge Thursday ordered the state of Indiana to extend the recognition of one same-sex couple’s marriage while a court case challenging the state’s anti-marriage equality law continues, but Indiana officials immediately asked for the order to be put on hold.
Under the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Richard Young, the state is to continue recognizing the marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who were married in Massachusetts last year, notes Lambda Legal, which is representing the couple. Young’s initial order for recognition of the marriage was to expire Thursday, but now it will be in force while the case makes its way through the courts, unless the state prevails in its demand for a stay.
Quasney has terminal ovarian cancer, and lack of marriage recognition would threaten Sandler’s ability to receive Social Security survivors’ benefits and other death benefits. The couple and their attorneys say it could also interfere with Quasney’s medical care and cause other problems for the women, who have two young daughters.
A motion to stay the injunction, filed Thursday by Indiana attorney general Gregory Zoeller, argues that continued recognition of the women’s marriage “would risk public confusion over the meaning of marriage in Indiana.” It also contends that any harm that would come to the couple “is reparable on final judgment, speculative, vague, or non-justiciable.”
Lambda Legal responded today by denouncing Zoeller’s action and initiating an online petition calling for the state to abandon its appeal of the order. “This is a shameful display of cruelty towards a loving couple with two children whose marriage is vital as they battle an aggressive cancer and fight to be together,” Lambda Legal Marriage Project director Camilla Taylor said in a press release. “This is one family in all of Indiana. Their marriage doesn’t harm anyone in Indiana, it simply protects them and their children.”
There are four other plaintiff couples in Lambda’s suit, which seeks the freedom to marry for all couples in the state, plus recognition of any Indiana same-sex couple’s out-of-state marriage. The suit argues that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
Young did not rule on the constitutionality of Indiana’s marriage ban; that decision is expected later. The ban is written into state law but not the state constitution; provisions in state constitutions are sometimes more difficult to challenge in court, although several have been struck down recently. Because of actions taken by the Indiana legislature, 2016 would be the soonest that such a constitutional amendment could go before Indiana voters. Tuesday’s Republican primary saw the defeat of two state lawmakers who voted to change the proposed amendment’s language, the factor that caused the delay in putting it before voters, with more conservative candidates prevailing.