Amy Sandler, left, and Niki Quasney joined a lawsuit to over turn Indiana's ban on same-sex marraige. | Photo provided
Updated: May 8, 2014 9:55AM
EVANSVILLE — A federal judge has set a hearing in the case of a gay couple from Munster seeking to compel Indiana to recognize their legal marriage before one of the women, who is stricken with cancer, dies.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young said during a Friday teleconference with attorneys in the case that he’ll hold a hearing Thursday in his Evansville court on the couple’s request for a temporary restraining order, The Evansville Courier & Press reported.
Attorneys for the couple and the state will have the opportunity to make arguments at that hearing, said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office is defending the state’s gay marriage ban against several lawsuits.
Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler are seeking a temporary restraining order requiring Indiana to recognize their 2013 marriage in Massachusetts, one of 17 states where gay marriage is legal.
Quasney has stage 4 ovarian cancer and the Munster couple wants Young to order the state to recognize their marriage in Quasney’s anticipated death certificate. The couple recently joined a lawsuit challenging Indiana’s marriage law that was filed last month by Lambda Legal, a national gay rights group.
That case is one of five federal lawsuits filed recently in Indiana on behalf of several Indiana same-sex couples.
In their federal complaint, the women argue that Indiana’s marriage law “encourages and invites private bias and discrimination, including in medical settings.”
Quasney and Sandler have been together 13 years and have two daughters, ages 1 and 2, conceived through “reproductive technology” and birthed by Sandler, according to their brief, which was filed Monday.
They argue that the court should grant a restraining order for the couple because “they have an urgent need to have their marriage recognized” due to Quasney’s terminal illness.
“When Niki dies, Amy will receive a death certificate from the State that records Niki as unmarried — which will interfere with Amy’s ability to take care of Niki’s affairs after her death, and to access the safety net generally available to a surviving spouse and a decedent’s children,” the brief said.
Although Indiana’s Legislature did not send a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to a referendum this year, the state already bars gay marriage under a statue defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Paul Castillo, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Midwest office, said Thursday’s hearing will be a preliminary hearing for Quasney and Sandler only. A lawsuit with four other couples challenging Indiana’s ban on same sex marriages will proceed normally.
He said the court has the power to make a preliminary decision on whether the couple’s marriage would be recognized in Indiana given Quasney’s urgent status.
“The decision will be temporary until the court can formally determine the ultimate question of whether Indiana’s ban on same sex marriages is constitutional,” Castillo said.
He did not know if the judge would make a decision on the matter on Thursday or if the state would appeal the judge’s decision once it’s made.
“Any preliminary injunction is immediately appealable. I don’t know whether the state’s attorney general will appeal, though,” Castillo said.
The attorney said he is hopeful for a positive decision to be made on Thursday for Quasney and Sandler.
“They shouldn’t have to endure discrimination from the state of Indiana for the time they have left together,” Castillo said.
Neither Quasney nor Sandler could be reached for comment.