Judge hears arguments in challenge to Indiana same-sex marriage ban

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney Lambda Legal

Updated: 1:40 p.m. CDT

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Indiana will be required to recognize a gay couple’s out-of-state marriage for at least a few days more as a federal judge considers whether to extend an April order requiring the state to acknowledge the union.

Amy Sandler and Niki QuasneyLambda Legal

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney

U.S. District Judge Richard Young heard arguments Friday in Evansville on a request that the state recognize the 2013 Massachusetts marriage of Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler of Munster. Quasney is terminally ill with advanced ovarian cancer, and the couple fear Sandler’s ability to collect Social Security and other death benefits would be harmed if their marriage isn’t recognized.

Young granted the couple a temporary restraining order last month. It expires next Thursday.

Attorneys for the state say there are other legal ways for Sandler to obtain property benefits after Quasney dies.

Indiana law defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The state does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions conducted in other states.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher noted Friday that the law does not allow for a hardship exception. He said a death certificate could be amended at a later date.

Sandler and Quasney have been together 13 years and were married last year in Massachusetts, one of 17 states where gay marriage is legal. They have two young daughters.

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Paul Castillo, staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said Friday that “Indiana has no justification whatsoever for denying them dignity and respect as a family during this extremely difficult time,” but noted that thousands of same-sex couples in Indiana also deserve recognition.

Quasney said she and Sandler aren’t seeking special privileges.

“We should have the same freedoms as other married Indiana couples,” she said.

Attorneys on both sides of the case expect it and similar lawsuits across the country to eventually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Rulings striking down gay-marriage bans in Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia are already being appealed.

Follow this case: Baskin v. Bogan.

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