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Judge: State must still recognize 1 gay marriage

INDIANAPOLIS – A lesbian couple seeking to have Indiana recognize their out-of-state marriage on the terminally ill partner’s death certificate has more time to fight their case after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction requiring the state to do so.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young’s injunction Thursday extends an April 10 temporary restraining order requiring the state to list Amy Sandler as the spouse of Niki Quasney after Quasney dies of cancer. It applies only to them, not to other gay couples who were legally wed elsewhere and are also seeking to have Indiana recognize their marriages.

Quasney and Sandler have been together 13 years and were married last year in Massachusetts, one of 17 states where gay marriage is legal. Indiana doesn’t allow gay marriage or recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere.

They are among several couples who’ve sued Indiana to have their out-of-state marriages recognized. But they are the only couple so far to win that recognition.

The Munster couple, who have two young daughters, had argued that lack of such recognition would endanger Sandler’s ability to collect Social Security and other death benefits.

Quasney has stage 4 ovarian cancer and has undergone numerous surgeries and chemotherapy, and the couple said they had “an urgent need to have their marriage recognized,” according to court records.

Attorneys for the state contend there are other legal ways for Sandler to obtain property benefits, including through a will, creating a trust or transferring property to each other. The state also argued it had no power over the federal Social Security program or other benefits the couple named.

The state also argued that Indiana law doesn’t prevent gay couples from marrying, as long as they marry members of the opposite sex.

“The traditional definition of marriage has been around a long time,” the attorney general’s office argued in court briefs.

Attorneys for both sides expect the lawsuit and several like it throughout the country to eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court. Rulings striking down gay-marriage bans in Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia already are being appealed.

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