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Zoeller: Validity Of Gay Marriages – Save For One – Remain ‘Undetermined’

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July 2, 2014 — Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports on a federal appeals court order to Indiana to recognize the same-sex marriage of a Munster couple…because one of the partners is terminally ill.

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TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The attorney general said Tuesday that he has not decided if same-sex marriages performed last week are valid or not.

“The validity is undetermined and such issues might have to be determined by a court later,” said Attorney General Greg Zoeller in a statement.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday night stopped county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a move that throws hundreds of unions performed over the past few days into limbo.

However, the appeals court did make an exception Tuesday, saying that the state must recognize one marriage – the union of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney of Munster, who is battling terminal cancer. They were plaintiffs in one of the original lawsuits.

Last week, the appeals court – at the request of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller – issued a stay of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Young that found the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

The attorney general issued a memo to clerks Tuesday with guidelines for proceeding with the stay. It states:

  • Clerks should refrain from further processing or recording same-sex marriage certificates
  • Clerks should not perform any additional same-sex marriages – even if the licenses were issued last week
  • Clerks can use their own discretion to issue refunds on the marriage license fees on request – but clerks should follow normal refund practices if requested. Also, applicants may request the clerks to hold their licenses or solemnized certificates pending a resolution of the appeal.

The attorney general’s office also recommended county clerks consult their county attorneys for further legal help.

On Monday, the attorney for Sandler and Quasney filed an emergency motion seeking to lift the stay on same-sex marriage becasue of Quasney’s failing health.

In 2013, the couple was legally married in the state of Massachusetts. However, because Indiana law does not currently recognize same-sex marriages, the state withholds rights from those couples that are given to married heterosexual couples.

Under the law, Sandler would have limited visitation rights if Quasney were to be hospitalized. Also, if Quasney were to pass away, Sandler would not be recognized as her primary beneficiary – creating financial complications for Sandler and the couple’s two children.

The state filed its response Tuesday afternoon opposing the couple’s motion. It said that the Indiana marriage law “permits no hardship exceptions for recognition of same-sex marriages.”

“The state has extensively researched this matter and sincerely wishes it found a provision within our state’s statutes that would allow for some extraordinary relief, or humanitarian exception to the rule of law that would grant what petitioners request,” Zoeller said. “If this court can find an exception that would apply, this circumstance surely warrants its use.”

But the appeals court sided with the couple.

“We are grateful that the court has stepped in to recognize Niki and Amy’s marriage,” said Kyle Megrath, marriage coordinator for Hoosiers United for 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.”

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