For couples challenging Ind., Wis., marriage bans, the fight is about fairness

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday on gay marriage fights from Indiana and Wisconsin, setting the stage for one ruling. Each case deals with whether statewide gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.

For the couples challenging the bans, the fight is about fairness and the right to be treated like any other couple.

A look at some of the plaintiffs:

Niki Quasney (left) and Amy Sandler.
Niki Quasney (left) and Amy Sandler. Jeffrey D. Nicholls, Sun-Times Media (AP)

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney didn’t plan to get married until they could tie the knot in Indiana.

Cancer changed that.

The two women, inseparable since they met in 2000, were happy together as they moved around the country, finding acceptance in such places as St. Louis, Las Vegas and Chicago.

But Quasney’s 2009 diagnosis with ovarian cancer sent the couple in 2011 to her hometown of Munster, Indiana, so their daughters, now 3 and 1, could grow up near Quasney’s family.

In Indiana, people weren’t as accepting. They were told they couldn’t obtain a family membership from a gym and when they took one of their daughters to a hospital for a blood test, staff members questioned who Quasney was.

“When we moved to Indiana, we were treated like we were strangers,” said Sandler, 37. “For the first time in a town that we were living in, we were bumping up against hurdles that we never faced. It was really frustrating.”

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The couple had a civil union in Chicago in 2011 so that Quasney, 38, a former teacher, could be placed on Sandler’s health plan. They married last August in Massachusetts near a cottage they visit regularly.

Neither of those ceremonies counted in Indiana until April, when a federal judge ordered the state to recognize their marriage because of Quasney’s advanced cancer. They wanted Sandler to be listed as Quasney’s spouse on her death certificate and feared Sandler would have difficulty obtaining death benefits if their union wasn’t recognized.

Sandler said the couple wants other people to have the same rights.

“It’s something we hope changes with the next decision,” she said. “Because everybody wants to have the freedoms that they deserve.”

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