INDIANAPOLIS | At least one same-sex couple in Indiana will have their marriage recognized by the state following a federal court decision Tuesday.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ordered Indiana to acknowledge the marriage of a lesbian couple, one of whom is terminally ill, on an emergency basis.
The emergency ruling came just days after the court stayed a federal judge's order setting aside Indiana's prohibition of gay marriage as unconstitutional.
Lawyers from Lambda Legal had asked the appeals court for the continued recognition of the marriage of Munster residents Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who is fighting advanced ovarian cancer.
"It is time for the state of Indiana to leave Niki and Amy in peace and not subject them and their marriage to any more stress and uncertainty as this case proceeds. We're thrilled that the court ruled in favor of this family as Niki battles stage 4 ovarian cancer," said Paul Castillo, attorney for the national gay rights group Lambda Legal, who represented the couple.
The three-line order contained no legal arguments or reasoning, but simply ordered Indiana to recognize the validity of couple's marriage "on an emergency basis."
The women, who were legally married in Massachusetts last year, filed a lawsuit seeking to force Indiana to recognize their marriage. They were granted emergency recognition in May while their case proceeded, in part so Sandler's name could appear on Quasney's death certificate as her spouse. The couple fears Sandler's ability to collect Social Security and other death benefits would be harmed if their marriage isn't recognized.
The appeals court did not rule on the overall issue of the constitutionality of Indiana's gay marriage ban, which went back into effect Friday when the 7th Circuit stayed Judge Richard Young's ruling that struck down the Indiana prohibition. Young's ruling Wednesday sent hundreds of same-sex couples to clerks' offices across the state to get marriage licenses and be wed, but the status of those unions isn't clear.
The Indiana attorney general's office had invited the court to grant a hardship exception for Quasney and Sandler if it could find a legal way to do so. State attorneys said they had been unable to find one.
Staci Schneider, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said Tuesday that the office respects the court's ruling but declined further comment.
"We hope the court will look at this marriage, as well as the hundreds of couples legally married last week across the state, and understand that to deny the freedom to marry is to inhibit equal protection of loving Hoosier families under Indiana law," Hoosiers Unite for Marriage said in a statement. "It cannot stand, and we will fight both the legal battle and to make sure Hoosiers understand why marriage matters and why these couples deserve protection."