Indiana must recognize the same-sex marriage of two women wed in Massachusetts, one of whom is gravely ill, a federal judge ruled Thursday. The state said it will appeal the narrow but historic ruling.
Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler are the first same-sex couple granted legal recognition by the state of Indiana under the order issued by Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana.
“The court finds that the Plaintiffs, Amy, Niki, (and children) A.Q-S., and M.Q.-S., have satisfied their burden for a preliminary injunction. They have shown a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable harm with no adequate remedy at law, that the public interest is in favor of the relief, and the balance of harm weighs in their favor,” Young wrote.
“Therefore, the court grants Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. … Defendants and all those acting in concert are enjoined from enforcing Indiana statute § 31-11-1-1(b) against recognition of Plaintiffs’, Niki Quasney’s and Amy Sandler’s, valid out-of-state marriage; the State of Indiana must recognize their marriage,” the order states.
The opinion also orders the Indiana Department of Health to record Quasney as married and Sandler as surviving spouse on a death certificate if Quasney dies in Indiana. Quasney has been diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer, according to the record.
“We are relieved and happy to send our congratulations and best wishes to Amy, Niki and their family. We applaud their courage and commitment to each other and to equality as they fight Niki’s illness,” said Paul Castillo, staff attorney for Lambda Legal, which represents the couple.
“While this family is experiencing urgent, life-threatening medical circumstances, they’re just one of the thousands of same-sex couples in Indiana enduring real financial and dignitary harm due to the state’s discriminatory marriage ban. Our work in Indiana is not done. All same-sex couples in Indiana need the security only marriage provides,” Castillo said in a statement.
Quasney and Sandler previously won a temporary restraining order that would have expired Friday. Young concluded his 14-page opinion by stressing its narrowness but also acknowledging the growing recognition of same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court of the United States opinion last year in United States v. Windsor, 134 S.Ct. 2675 (2013).
“(T)he court recognizes that the issues with which it is confronted are highly contentious and provoke strong emotions both in favor and against same-sex marriages. The court’s ruling today is not a final resolution of the merits of the case – it is a preliminary look, or in other words, a best guess by the court as to what the outcome will be,” Young wrote.
“Currently, all federal district court cases decided post-Windsor indicate that Plaintiffs are likely to prevail. Nevertheless, the strength or weakness of Plaintiffs’ case at the time of final dissolution will inevitably be impacted as more courts are presented with this issue,” he wrote.
The state will appeal Thursday’s ruling, according to a statement from the office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
“The Indiana Attorney General’s Office is notifying county clerks that the federal court’s decision today is limited and applies to one couple in this case only,” spokesman Bryan Corbin said. “County clerks still are prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Indiana.”
The state argues Indiana’s statute defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman is constitutional and should remain intact.
“The state’s legal defense of the statute notes that the Legislature has the legal authority to determine how marriage shall be defined within Indiana’s borders; and Indiana’s Legislature has chosen in statute to define marriage in the traditional way – between one man and one woman – and to not legally recognize same-sex unions granted in other states,” Corbin said. Windsor, he said, “continues to leave this state policy decision-making authority with states and their legislatures. The judge has the motions under advisement and will rule later.”
Likewise, plaintiffs in this case have moved for summary judgment.
This case, Baskin, et al. v. Bogan, et al., 1:14-CV-00355, is one of several federal lawsuits challenging Indiana’s marriage statute. The suits were filed this year after the Legislature passed House Joint Resolution 3, a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.
In the statement provided by Lambda Legal, Quasney said she and her wife were relieved. “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. I look forward to the day when all couples in Indiana have the freedom to marry,” Quasney said.