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Fair Lawsuit Brings Same Sex Benefits To Light

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Alisha Brennon, whose partner, Christina Santiago, was killed in the accident.

stage collapse

Photo: Rich Evers (Flickr)

Indiana does not recognize same-sex benefits, even if the couple is legally married in another state.

A new law suit surrounding the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair could be the next chapter in the same-sex marriage debate. Personal injury lawyer Kenneth J. Allen has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Alisha Brennon, whose partner, Christina Santiago, was killed in the accident.

Deborah Widiss, Associate Professor of Law at Indiana University, says that the case is not likely to be successful at the state level, where the courts may not find Brennon eligible to receive damages.

“If you look at our statutes on the books, the wrongful death statute refers to surviving spouses,” she said. “And then we have a statutory provision that says in Indiana, same-sex marriages, even if they’re lawful in the state where they were celebrated, will not be recognized in Indiana.”

Donald Gjerdingen, Professor of Law at Indiana University, says the most pressing matter could lie in federal law which he calls “relatively underdeveloped” in the area of same-sex marriage.

“It could raise an instance about the possible application of the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “Has it changed? Or do they want to change it and is it still enforceable? And all those. And that is a fairly immediate legal issue.”

Widiss adds that while the Obama administration no longer defends the provision that does not recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level, the separate provision that allows the states to deem them invalid remains unaffected.

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