Indiana agrees to recognize another same-sex marriage involving ill spouse

September 12, 2014

The state will recognize the out-of-state marriage of a Whiting couple in which one woman is receiving hospice care for terminal cancer.

Veronica Romero and her wife, Mayra Yvette Rivera, filed their lawsuit Monday in federal court in Hammond, seeking recognition of their Illinois marriage in Indiana. The two have been together for 27 years, have two children and got married in March.

Rivera was diagnosed in 2011 with ovarian cancer, which has since spread throughout her body and required hospice care beginning in July.

The two filed their lawsuit to prevent Indiana from enforcing I.C. 31-11-1-1 against them and to require state officials to recognize their marriage.

The state actors – Lake County Clerk Michael Brown, Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. William C. Vanness II and Attorney General Greg Zoeller – agreed they would not enforce the state’s marriage law against the couple and will recognize their out-of-state marriage. If either Romero or Rivera should die in Indiana, the Department of Health will issue a death certificate recording the deceased plaintiff’s status as married and list the other plaintiff as the surviving spouse, according to an opinion from Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

The Whiting couple is the second same-sex couple to have their out-of-state marriage recognized in Indiana. Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler sued earlier this year to have their marriage recognized as Quasney is also terminally ill with Stage IV ovarian cancer.

When Quasney and Sandler filed their emergency motion with the 7th Circuit to lift the stay preventing same-sex couples from being married or having their marriages recognized with regards to their relationship, Zoeller argued that the state’s marriage statute allows for no hardship exceptions. The 7th Circuit granted their emergency motion July 1, making theirs the only gay marriage legally recognized in this state until Thursday’s ruling.

Romero’s and Rivera’s case has been otherwise stayed pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding the appeal of the state’s same-sex marriage cases, in which the 7th Circuit ruled that the gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional


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