Midori Fujii married her wife, Kris Brittain, in Los Angeles in 2008. Three years later, Brittain died of ovarian cancer. Because that marriage was not recognized in the couple’s home state of Indiana, Fuji is being forced to pay $300,000 in inheritance tax on the property that was left to her by her partner.
The American Civil Liberties Union hopes to change that. On Friday, the organization filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fuji in Indiana. Had the state recognized the couple’s marriage, Fuji would not have been required to pay any inheritance tax, said her attorney, Sean Lemieux.
"When you've spent your lives together, saving, building assets, protecting yourself, to have that then go into taxes because your marriage is disrespected is not only emotionally insulting but financially harmful," he said in a recent Associated Press story.
In a letter posted on the ACLU’s website, Fuji detailed the couple’s story.
“The state’s refusal to recognize my marriage to Kris is about more than economic hardship and logistical burdens,” she wrote. "My best friend, the woman I loved with all my heart, died. In my grief, I am denied the comfort and dignity of being acknowledged as Kris' wife, and now widow."
Fuji’s lawsuit is one of three federal lawsuits filed in Indiana last week challenging the state’s ban on gay marriages. One of the suits seeks to extend pension funds to same-sex spouses who are married to police officers or firefighters. The third suit was filed on behalf of two same-sex couples, married in another state, who are now in the midst of divorce.
In a statement quoted in USA Today, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he would defend the Indiana statute.
"When plaintiffs who disagree with an Indiana statute file a challenge in court, I have a duty as Indiana's attorney general to defend our state and the statute the legislature passed to the best of my skill and ability — and will do so here, both now and on any appeal," the statement read.
The statement likely reinforces Lemieux’s concerns. He said recently that “the government is a powerful teacher of discrimination.”
"There is no justification for Indiana to treat these families as second-class citizens,” Lemieux added.