A same-sex couple’s plea that Indiana recognize their marriage was granted Thursday by a federal judge in Evansville, a significant ruling in one of the five separate lawsuits that are challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Chief Judge Richard Young issued a temporary restraining order, instructing the Indiana State Department of Health on how it should issue a death certificate in the future regarding the same-sex couple Nikole Quasney and Amy Sandler.
The order is in effect until May 8. Before that date, a preliminary injunction hearing will be scheduled to hear arguments on the plaintiffs’ request to extend the order indefinitely.
Lambda Legal, a national organization, had filed a motion March 31 for emergency relief on behalf of Quasney, who has stage IV ovarian cancer; her wife, Sandler; and their two young children. The couple asked the court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting Indiana from enforcing the state’s marriage ban as it applies to them.
Quasney and Sandler have a civil union in Illinois and were legally married in Massachusetts in 2013. They fear if Quasney dies without Indiana recognizing their marriage, she will not be allowed to have Sandler by her side at the hospital and Sandler will not be eligible for surviving spousal benefits.
Lambda Legal, which advocates for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV, heralded the ruling as a victory.
“We’re greatly relieved for Amy, Niki and their two young children,” said Paul Castillo, staff attorney for Lambda Legal. “They are a loving family coping with a terminal illness. The State of Indiana has no justification for denying them dignity, legitimacy and respect as a family during this inexpressibly difficult time.”
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office emphasized the limited scope of Young’s ruling, applying only to Quasney and Sandler. It does not apply to the other plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Quasney and Sandler are plaintiffs in the suit Baskin v. Bogan, 1:14-CV-355, which was filed by Lambda Legal March 10.
Solicitor General Thomas Fisher of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office argued Thursday that under current law, the state’s marriage statute does not allow for hardships exceptions. He maintained the relief the plaintiffs are seeking should not be granted.
“We are so relieved. We are so thankful that we can move forward and concentrate on being with each other,” Quasney said.