As attorneys in Indiana’s same-sex marriage cases prepare for oral arguments before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals later this month, today (Aug. 5) is the deadline for the filing of amici briefs for the plaintiffs.
An amicus brief is a “friend of the court” statement that supports a particular side of the argument under consideration by the court. Amici briefs on behalf of the state were filed by July 22.
Attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman, who represents plaintiffs in one of the three Indiana cases, announced more than 100 police, fire, and EMS personnel have joined together in one brief in support of marriage equality in Indiana.
A group of police officers, firefighters, and their spouses filed suit against the state and Public Employees Retirement System declaring Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and demanding the right to have their spouses recognized as beneficiaries for their pension benefits. All of the couples in the suit were legally married in other states, however the law doesn’t recognize their marriages. The law leaves their spouses ineligible to be listed as beneficiaries for their pensions should they die in the line of duty, on active duty, or as retired personnel.
“We are fighting for marriage equality for all Hoosiers, but we want to highlight the fact that first responders place themselves in harm’s way every day and deserve to know that their families will be protected if they are hurt or killed in the line of duty,” said Horseman.
A portion of the brief reads as follows:
“Gay and lesbian law enforcement officers and other first responders put on their uniforms, place themselves in harm’s way to protect and defend our communities, and swear to uphold our laws without prejudice or bias. They serve our communities with equal distinction, skill, and bravery. But Indiana and Wisconsin deny these men and women the equal dignity and respect they deserve. Indiana and Wisconsin do not treat them equally in their day-to-day work, nor, tragically, in Indiana, even when they make the ultimate sacrifice. Amici submit this brief, therefore, to explain why basic human dignity – enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection – requires the rulings of the court below to be affirmed.”
IMPD officer Teresa Welborn said she was amazed by the number of her fellow officers who agreed to join the brief without hesitation. Evansville police officer Karen Vaughn-Kajmowicz received the same kind of no-hesitation support as well.
“The support from fellow officers doesn’t fall along gender or racial lines,” said Vaughn-Kajmowicz. “We all truly stand together in a brotherhood, a sisterhood. We are a familyhood.”
State Representative Dan Forestal , D-Indianapolis, stood in support of his fellow Hoosiers and first responder colleagues. Forestal says there is no reason why the brave men and women in public safety shouldn’t receive the same benefits as their colleagues based upon who they choose to love and marry. Forestal also called for a swift resolution in this case. Forestal has been a firefighter with the Indianapolis Fire Department for almost 8 years. He is currently serving his first term in the statehouse.
The state’s reply brief to the plaintiff’s opening brief is also due today. Oral arguments will be presented to the court August 26.