Woman, partner with cancer join gay marriage suits

INDIANAPOLIS - Odds are Niki Quasney will die within the next year. But before she does, she would like Indiana to recognize her marriage to the woman she loves.

Quasney, who has Stage IV ovarian cancer, and her longtime partner, Amy Sandler, this week became the latest gay couple to join a series of lawsuits challenging Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit the couple joined was filed by Lambda Legal, a national gay rights group, and is among five filed recently in federal court in Indianapolis on behalf of several Indiana same-sex couples.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office said the agency would defend the state's gay marriage ban in court, as is its duty.

"If courts routinely grant case-by-case exceptions to statutes without legislative authority to do so, then the rule of law could be undermined; so the State, which is entitled to a defense, must urge respect for the current rule of law," spokesman Bryan Corbin said in a statement.

"To date, the Supreme Court has permitted states to enforce their own state-level marriage-definition laws," the statement added.

The brief filed Monday said that the couple joined the March 10 suit that includes about a dozen couples because the state refused to recognize their 2013 marriage in Massachusetts or to consider them a legal couple. Indiana law, which does not recognize same-sex marriages performed within or outside the state, also makes it difficult for Quasney to obtain medical care and forces her to commute to Illinois for chemotherapy, the brief said.

"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.

The couple wants the federal court to issue a restraining order that would compel the state to recognize their marriage in Quasney's anticipated death certificate.

The Munster, Ind., couple has been together 13 years and got married in Massachusetts last August. They have two daughters, ages 1 and 2, conceived through "reproductive technology" and birthed by Sandler, the brief said.

"Niki is my wife. It is more hurtful than I can describe that our government refuses to acknowledge that," Sandler said in the brief.

The Quasney case is not the only one in which mortality plays a role.

One of the 15 plaintiffs in another lawsuit is Midori Fujii, a Hamilton County resident who married her longtime partner, Kris Brittain, in California in 2008, three years before Brittain died of ovarian cancer. That lawsuit was filed March 14 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

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