Indiana must recognize the marriage of one same-sex couple, a U.S. district court judge ruled today.
Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler were married in Massachusetts, but Indiana’s marriage law does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Quasney and Sandler joined a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal last month challenging that law on the basis that it violates the Equal Protection clause in the constitution.
The couple also asked for a temporary restraining order on the law. Their attorneys argued the law was causing them irreparable harm because Quasney has ovarian cancer and doctors do not know how much longer she will live.
Judge Richard Young, the Southern District of Indiana, agreed with that argument after a hearing in Evansville today.
Young said Indiana’s statute likely violated the constitution, and there is no adequate remedy for Quasney and Sandler short of recognition of their marriage, and temporarily putting the law on hold for the couple would relieve Quasney’s suffering and anxiety.
The state attorneys argued current state law does not allow for hardship exceptions.
But the judge said that the potential of harm to the state would be negligible because the order only applies to the one couple. It does not order the state to recognize any other same-sex marriages.
Young also ordered the state, in the event of Quasney’s death, to issue a death certificate that lists her as married to Sandler.
The temporary restraining order expires in 28 days. The judge and the lawyers are scheduling another hearing within that timeframe to determine whether the restraining order should be extended.
The couple’s attorney says the ruling comes as a relief.
“She will have the comfort and security to know that Indiana is now recognizing their same-sex marriage from the state of Massachusetts and that they have the security to know that, in the event of Niki’s passing, Amy Sandler will be recognized as a surviving spouse,” says Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo.
In a statement, Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office downplayed the significance of the decision, noting it only applies to Quasney and Sandler and does not impact any other couples in the state.
“Because the temporary restraining order involves two plaintiffs and one death certificate only, it does not apply in any way to marriage licenses of others. County clerks in Indiana will be notified that there is no change in legal requirements for granting marriage licenses as a result of this TRO. County clerks still are prohibited by law from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” said Bryan Corbin, the attorney general’s spokesman.