Photo: Kelly Huston
The status of marriages between same-sex couples in Indiana is still up in the air after a federal appeals court Friday stopped same sex marriages until the state’s appeal can be heard.
Legal experts say couples could be in legal limbo for weeks or even months as the courts work to sort it out.
Last Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young ruled Indiana’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional. Within hours, same-sex couples across the state were getting legally married.
Two days later, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the decision until the appeals process is finished. That’s left same-sex couples who got married in between those two rulings unsure of the legal standing of their unions.
Indiana University law professor David Orentlicher says there is certainty when it comes to federal recognition.
“Whether it’s tax returns for next year or it’s pension benefits, anything that’s regulated by federal law, the Obama administration has said they will be treated as legally married,” Orentlicher says.
But the Indiana Attorney General’s office says recognition of those marriages by the state is still undetermined and that a court may have to sort out the issue.
Because of the stay, the same-sex couple whose marriage was the first recognized in Indiana also wants that recognition restored by a federal appeals court.
Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler, married in Massachusetts last year, are one of the couples who challenged Indiana’s marriage statute. They also asked for emergency recognition of their marriage because Quasney is terminally ill with ovarian cancer.
More than two months before federal judge Richard Young ruled the statute unconstitutional for all same-sex couples, he ordered the state to recognize Quasney and Sandler’s marriage.
But when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals halted the effect of Young’s ruling last week on the marriage ban as a whole, it also invalidated Young’s emergency recognition of Quasney and Sandler’s union.
Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo, who represents the couple, says the appeals court’s stay is a setback for all same-sex couples.
“In the immediate future, however, we also want Amy and Niki’s marriage to continue to be recognized because, for their particular circumstance, they don’t have the luxury of time to wait for court proceeding,” Castillo says.
The Attorney General’s office has said granting Quasney and Sandler special recognition does not fit with Indiana law, which does not have a hardship exception for marriage recognition. It also notes a death certificate can be changed in the future if the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is permanently eliminated.