INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge has said that attorneys defending
Indiana's gay marriage ban haven't given a valid reason why the state
should not recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple, one of
whom has a terminal illness.
U.S. District Judge Richard Young's written order, issued Friday, outlined
the rationale behind his decision earlier this month to grant Niki Quasney
and Amy Sandler a temporary restraining order that bars the state from
enforcing its gay marriage ban against their union.
The federal order applied only to Quasney and Sandler, even though they
were part of a larger lawsuit involving several gay couples. Indiana does
not recognize same-sex marriages performed inside or outside of the state.
The Munster couple had asked Indiana to recognize their marriage, which
took place in Massachusetts, one of 17 states where gay marriage is legal.
Quasney and Sandler have been together 13 years and they have two
daughters, ages 1 and 2, conceived through "reproductive technology" and
birthed by Sandler, according to court records.
Quasney has stage 4 ovarian cancer, and the couple had argued that the
court should grant their request because "they have an urgent need to have
their marriage recognized." Young ordered the state on April 10 to
recognize their marriage on Quasney's death certificate when it is issued.
Quasney is still alive.
In the 11-page order issued Friday, Young said he granted the request
partly because the couple is likely to succeed in having Indiana's gay
marriage ban declared unconstitutional. He also said that Quasney's
terminal illness required urgent action.
"The Equal Protection Clause requires states to treat people equally under
the law," wrote Young, who was appointed in 1998 by then-President Bill
Clinton. "If the state wishes to differentiate between people and make
them unequal, then it must have at least a legitimate purpose."
He also said his decision was due in part to a wave of similar rulings in
other states, including two that dealt with terminally ill partners.
Paul Castillo, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, the national gay rights
group that represented Quasney and Sandler, agreed Young's written order
was consistent with other court decisions across the county.
"We are certainly optimistic as we move forward," Castillo said.
Attorneys are due to present arguments May 2 over the couple's request for
a preliminary injunction that would permanently bar Indiana from enforcing
its gay marriage ban against their union, Castillo said.
The attorney general's office said in a statement Monday that it would
continue to defend Indiana's gay marriage ban at the next stage in court.
"County clerks are still prohibited by law from issuing marriage licenses
to other same-sex couples," spokesman Bryan Corbin said.
Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued at the April 10 hearing in
Evansville that the state has an interest in limiting marriage to couples
who can have children. But Young noted in the order that the state
routinely recognizes the marriages of couples who are too old to
reproduce, and gay couples can form families in other ways.
He also wrote that the state's decision to not recognize gay marriages
performed out of state didn't hold up because Indiana recognizes other
marriages that take place outside of the state and violate Indiana laws,
such as marriages between first cousins.