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Appeals court orders state to recognize Munster couple’s same-sex marriage

Niki Quasney Amy Sandler Munster 2011 photo. | Sun-Times Medifile

Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler of Munster in 2011 photo. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: August 3, 2014 6:26AM



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 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.

Neither Quasney nor Sandler could be reached for comment on Tuesday.

“It is time for the state of Indiana to leave Niki and Amy in peace and not subject them and their marriage to any more stress and uncertainty as this case proceeds,” said Paul D. Castillo, staff attorney for Lambda Legal.

Castillo said the firm will continue to fight until no family in Indiana needs to worry about their marriage being stripped away from them and all Hoosiers have the freedom to marry.

A spokesman for Lambda Legal said the state’s recognition of the Munster couple’s marriage could be nullified if the appeals court upholds the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Indiana, depending on the language of the ruling.

In response to the emergency motion filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of Quasney and Sandler, the 7th Circuit court set an expedited briefing schedule in Baskin v. Bogan, with all briefs in the case due by Aug. 5. Arguments in the case could come as early as the end of the summer, according to Lambda Legal.

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.

Contributing: Karen Caffarini,
Post-Tribune correspondent



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