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Same-sex couple facing terminal illness files emergency motion with 7th Circuit

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The couple who won an initial battle to have their same-sex marriage recognized – a case that foreshadowed the overturning of Indiana’s marriage law last week – is now fighting the emergency stay granted June 27 by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lambda Legal, a national gay-rights organization, has filed an emergency motion with the 7th Circuit to keep in place an earlier order that recognized the marriage of Indiana residents Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler. This couple turned to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana for an emergency order in April because Quasney is terminally ill and wanted to be able to list Sandler as her spouse on a future death certificate.

The 7th Circuit’s order issued late last week, staying the June 25 ruling by the U.S. District Court that found Indiana’s marriage law unconstitutional, included preventing the state from recognizing Quasney and Sandler’s Massachusetts marriage.

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, is asking Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to not oppose this motion.

“This is one family in all of Indiana that is undergoing tremendous stress while they courageously fight Ms. Quasney’s stage four ovarian cancer,” Taylor said in a press release. “Their marriage doesn’t harm anyone in Indiana, it simply protects them and their children.”

Lamba Legal filed Baskin v. Bogan, 1:140-cv-0355 in March which was one of five challenges to Indiana’ ban on same-sex marriage. The organization later filed a motion seeking immediate relief for Quasney, Sandler and their two children because of Quasney’s serious health situation.

The state filed a motion to stay the recognition of Quasney and Sandler’s marriage, but Young never issued a ruling.

Meanwhile, other same-sex couples are wondering about the current status of their marriages. After Young struck down Indiana’s marriage law June 25, many gays and lesbians raced to their county clerks’ offices to get married, but the stay issued by the 7th Circuit has put those marriages in legal limbo.

“Our position is these are valid marriages,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. “It would be unprecedented for the state to take the position that even though these marriages were valid at the time they were entered into, they are no longer valid.”

Paul Castillo, Lambda Legal attorney, echoed Falk in saying the marriages performed during the window between Young’s decision and the 7th Circuit stay were still valid.

However, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s Office said the question of validity has not been determined and might have to be decided by a court at a later time.

Castillo said the validity question has been answered in federal court. After a stay was granted in the ruling that found Utah’s marriage law violated the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah ruled in the separate case of Evans v. Utah that vows exchanged during the window in the beehive state were still valid.

Utah has filed a motion to stay that decision.

Despite questions at the state level, Indiana same-sex couples who were married after Young’s decision may get recognition from the federal government. Castillo pointed out when a marriage law has been overturned in other states, the U.S. government has considered those marriages as valid even while a stay is in place.  

 

 

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