INDIANAPOLIS - A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered Indiana to recognize the marriage of a lesbian couple, one of whom is terminally ill, on an emergency basis.
The ruling came just days after the court stayed a federal judge's order setting aside Indiana's prohibition of gay marriage as unconstitutional.
Lawyers from Lambda Legal had asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago for the continued recognition of the marriage between Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who is fighting advanced ovarian cancer.
The women, who were legally married in Massachusetts last year, filed a lawsuit seeking to force Indiana to recognize their marriage. They were granted emergency recognition last month while their case proceeded, in part so Sandler's name could appear on Quasney's death certificate as her spouse. The couple fears Sandler's ability to collect Social Security and other death benefits would be harmed if their marriage isn't recognized.
The appeals court did not rule on the overall issue of the constitutionality of Indiana's gay marriage ban, which went back into effect Friday when the 7th Circuit stayed Judge Richard Young's ruling that struck down the Indiana ban. Young's ruling Wednesday sent hundreds of same-sex couples to clerks' offices across the state to get marriage licenses and be wed, but the status of those unions isn't clear.
The Indiana attorney general's office had invited the court to grant a hardship exception if it could find a legal way to do so. State attorneys said they had been unable to find one.
Hoosiers Unite for Marriage issued the following statement after the ruling:
"We are grateful that the court has stepped in to recognize Niki and Amy’s marriage. As Niki battles cancer, this couple does not need the added burden of wondering whether their legal commitment to one another will be honored. We hope the court will look at this marriage, as well as the hundreds of couples legally married last week across the state, and understand that to deny the freedom to marry is to inhibit equal protection of loving Hoosier families under Indiana law. It cannot stand, and we will fight both the legal battle and to make sure Hoosiers understand why marriage matters and why these couples deserve protection."