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Judge hears arguments in gay marriage cases

In this 2011 phois Amy Sandler right her wife Niki Quasney Munster Ind. Indianwill be required recognize couple’s out-of-state marriage

In this 2011 photo is Amy Sandler, right, and her wife Niki Quasney in Munster, Ind. Indiana will be required to recognize the couple’s out-of-state marriage for at least a few days more as a federal judge considers whether to extend an April order that expires May 8, 2014 requiring the state to acknowledge the union. 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. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Jeffrey D. Nicholls)

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Updated: June 4, 2014 6:12AM



EVANSVILLE — Indiana will be required to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple from Munster at least a few days more as a federal judge considers whether the state must continue to acknowledge the union, and whether the state’s ban on same-sex marriages should be abolished.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young heard oral arguments on both issues Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Bonnie Everly, of Chesterton, who drove to Evansville to attend the hearing with her partner Lyn Judkins, said the judge said he would have a decision within a week on the Munster couple’s case. Young didn’t say when he’d rule on the state ban, but Everly was upbeat.

“It seemed like it went well. We left with high hopes,” Everly said.

Everly and Judkins, who have been together for 13 years, hope to marry in Indiana, Everly’s native state and their home.

Attorneys also requested that the state recognize the 2013 Massachusetts marriage of Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler, both 37, 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 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 said 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 daughters, ages 3 and 1.

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.

“While this family is experiencing urgent, life-threatening medical circumstances, they’re just one of the thousands of same-sex couples in Indiana enduring real financial and dignitary harm due to the state’s discriminatory marriage ban. Indiana families shouldn’t have to wait any longer for the freedom to marry,” Castillo said.

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.

Everly said she doesn’t know what it would mean for them if the judge rules to abolish the ban and the ruling is appealed, but she and Judkins are willing to wait to marry in Indiana.

“We have to keep positive and hope the ruling will be in our favor. A lot of people are involved in this,” Everly said.

--Post-Tribune correspondent Karen Caffarini contributed to this report



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