Society

Judge In Indiana Forces State To Recognize Gay Marriage Of Dying Woman

| by Jared Keever

Signaling possible changes on the horizon for marriage equality in Indiana, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the state must recognize the out-of-state marriage between two women. The decision only applies to the marriage of Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler who were married in Massachusetts. 

Quasney has stage 4 ovarian cancer and the couple asked U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young to issue a temporary restraining order that would force Indiana to recognize the marriage. Young agreed.

“We are so thankful that we can move forward and concentrate on being with each other. Our time together and with our daughters is the most important thing in the world to me,” Quasney said in a statement quoted in the The Journal Gazette of Ft. Wayne, Ind.

The couple’s attorney, Paul Castillo of Lambda Legal, a national gay rights group, said the judge likely issued the ruling because of Quasney’s terminal illness. 

“No one can determine for sure how much time Niki has left. And it was certainly important to the couple to be recognized as married during the time she has remaining,” he said. “It was more of an urgency issue.”

The restraining order was sought because that process moves faster than others according to Castillo. 

The quick decision though won’t affect the other lawsuits regarding gay marriage already pending in the state. Indiana law currently defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

That shouldn’t be the case according to Midori Fuji, an Indiana woman who lost her wife to ovarian cancer a few years ago. Although the couple had been married in Los Angeles in 2008 Indiana wouldn't recognize their marriage. Fuji had to pay $300,000 in estate taxes after her wife’s death — something a heterosexual widow would not have had to do. She filed a lawsuit against the state with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in March and wrote a letter telling her story for the legal organization’s website.

Fuji’s case was one of three lawsuits regarding gay marriage filed in Indiana that month according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. The state’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he would defend against all challenges to the state’s marriage laws.

The restraining order issued for Quasney seems unlikely to change that. Spokesman for the attorney general’s office, Bryan Corbin, said as much in a statement after the ruling.

“County clerks still are prohibited by law from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” he said.

It is unclear when decisions will be written for the pending cases.

Sources: The Journal Gazette, ACLU, Indianapolis Business Journal