Petition calls for state to drop same-sex marriage fight
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent May 9, 2014 10:08PM
Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler of Munster in 2011 photo. | Sun-Times Media file
The petition is available at www.lambdalegal.org/petition/indiana-attorney-general
Updated: June 11, 2014 6:10AM
An online petition started Friday urges Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to abandon his appeal of a court ruling that requires the state to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a Munster lesbian couple, one of whom is battling Stage 4 ovarian cancer.
Lambda Legal launched the petition in support of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, both 37, who the firm is representing. It hopes to get 500 signatures.
The action came after Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher, of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, filed an appeal Thursday evening of the ruling earlier in the day by Federal Court Judge Richard Young.
Young ruled that the 2013 marriage of Quasney and Sandler must be recognized by the state throughout court proceedings involving a lawsuit in which they are among 10 plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, Baskin v. Bogan, was filed March 10 in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana. It asks that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages be abolished.
Lambda Legal later filed a motion seeking immediate relief for Quasney, Sandler and their two children, ages 3 and 1. The national organization that fights for civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people and others, said the couple needed their marriage legally recognized in Indiana to receive the full protections that every other married family in Indiana receives.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said it sympathizes with the couple’s health situation, but the law does not allow for hardship exceptions. He also said the state Legislature, not the attorney general, determines marriage law in Indiana.
“The Attorney General’s Office as state’s lawyer has a duty to defend the laws of the state from lawsuits in the trial court and in any appeal, and the appellate courts ultimately will decide,” spokesman Bryan Corbin said.
He said the Attorney General’s Office made it clear prior to the decision that it would appeal and ask the court to stay its injunction if the plaintiff’s motion was granted, as was done in similar legal challenges before other federal courts.
“It is disappointing that the plaintiff’s lawyers who are suing Indiana have chosen to take an unprofessional approach in their utterances toward opposing counsel, one not consistent with standards of civility and respect that Hoosiers and Hoosier lawyers uphold in our legal system,” Corbin said.
Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal, called the state’s action “a shameful display of cruelty towards a loving couple with two children whose marriage is vital as they battle an aggressive cancer and fight to be together.”
“This is one family in all of Indiana,” she said. “Their marriage doesn’t harm anyone in Indiana, it simply protects them and their children.”
Quasney said she and Sandler were relieved when they learned of the judge’s ruling and shocked that the attorney general would fight it.
“It’s just us and our daughters, and it’s heartwrenching to think that a powerful attorney like him wants to take away the constitutional protections that we should have never had to fight for in the first place,” she said.
Ruling in Arkansas
A judge on Friday struck down Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage, saying the state has “no rational reason” for preventing gay couples from marrying.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that the 2004 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution violates the rights of same-sex couples. He didn’t put his ruling on hold as some judges have done in other states, opening the door for same-sex couples in Arkansas to begin seeking marriage licenses, though it was not clear whether that would happen before Monday.
“This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality,” Piazza wrote. “The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.”
State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office said he would appeal the ruling and asked Piazza to suspend it during that process.
“We respect the Court’s decision, but, in keeping with the Attorney General’s obligation to defend the state constitution, we will appeal,” spokesman Aaron Sadler said.
Piazza issued his ruling late Friday, about half an hour after the marriage license office in Pulaski County closed.
Arkansas courthouses typically aren’t open on weekends, but with the state in its early-voting period for a May 20 primary, several clerks’ offices will be open Saturday. However, clerks reached by The Associated Press after Piazza issued his ruling said they hadn’t been formally notified of it and weren’t prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses.