New Lawsuit Challenges Indiana Gay Marriage Ban

Associated Press

Friday March 14, 2014

Indiana's ban on same-sex marriages faced a new challenge Thursday in a federal lawsuit announced by a national gay rights group on behalf of three lesbian couples from across the state.

Lambda Legal argues in the lawsuit that the equal protection rights of the couples from Whitestown, Chesterton and Munster are being violated because they can't marry in Indiana and the state won't recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

"We just want what everyone else has in Indiana - a real, honest and legal marriage," said co-plaintiff Rae Baskin of Whitestown, about 20 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Baskin, 60, and partner Esther Fuller, 78, have been together 24 years. "We are a family. Esther loves me unconditionally and I can't imagine life without her."

The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court in Indianapolis. A similar lawsuit was filed last week in New Albany federal court by four couples from Clark and Floyd counties.

In that case, Attorney Dan Canon said that Indiana is under leadership that says his clients do not deserve the same rights, responsibilities and privileges provided to opposite-sex couples, simple because they are in a same-sex relationships. Canon and his eight clients are taking aim at the Indiana statute that reads, "Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female. A marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized."

Canon said that the U.S. Supreme Court, through United States vs. Windsor, ruled last year that it is unconstitutional to treat homosexual partnerships differently than heterosexual couples.

Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo said "many families are helped and no one is hurt when same-sex couples are treated fairly by their government."

"Even if couples travel out of state to marry, they will still be denied any respect by the state of Indiana, and there are many important federal benefits, such as Family Medical Leave, that will be denied because those benefits are based on whether or not the home state respects the marriage," Castillo said in a news release.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a statement saying his office would defend the state's marriage laws.

The other plaintiffs are Bonne Everly, 56, and Linda Judkins, 57, of Chesterton, who have been together 13 years; and Dawn Lynn Carver, 41, and Pamela Eanes, 50, of Munster, together 17 years, Lambda Legal said. The lawsuit names as defendants Zoeller and the clerks of the three counties where the plaintiffs reside.

The lawsuits follow Indiana's legislative debate this year on adding a gay marriage ban to the state constitution and multiple court rulings around the country striking down such bans. A federal judge last month ruled that Kentucky must recognize unions performed legally in other places.

The Indiana General Assembly approved a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages but removed language on gay civil unions that had been approved in 2011. The change forced lawmakers to restart the process to amend the constitution.

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