Pence's EPA battle strands Indiana


A federal judge in southwest Indiana just dropped the other shoe in the same-sex marriage debate.

Judge Richard Young ruled that the state of Indiana must recognize the marriage of an Indiana lesbian couple. Nicole Quasney and Amy Sandler wed in Massachusetts last year.

Quasney now is in the final stages of a fight with terminal ovarian cancer.

The judge determined that Quasney's condition merited emergency action from the court and issued a temporary restraining order compelling Indiana to recognize the marriage. That means that Sandler and the couple's two children will find issues of visitation and inheritance easier, less expensive and less complicated.

Advocates for banning same-sex marriage in Indiana tried to take what comfort they could from the fact that Young's ruling was temporary - issued for only 28 days.

The other signs, though, couldn't have been reassuring to gay marriage opponents.

The judge questioned whether Indiana's current ban on same-sex marriages violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses. Even more significantly, Young said that there was a reasonable likelihood that Quasney and Sandler would prevail on the merits of their case.

That isn't exactly news.

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled that the days of same-sex marriage bans could be coming to an end when it struck down the federal defense of marriage act last summer. The court's ruling said that the federal ban presented Fifth Amendment problems that likely were insurmountable.

At the time, the nation's highest court left state bans on gay unions untouched.

That encouraged activist social conservatives in Indiana and elsewhere to continue their fights to get gay marriage bans grafted into state constitutions.

The judge's ruling makes clear that their quest always was quixotic. Even if they had won the political fight at the state level - which they didn't - they always were likely to lose the legal war.

The proponents for House Joint Resolution 3 - the proposed Indiana constitutional amendment banning both gay marriages and civil unions - said that the measure was needed precisely because of lawsuits like Quasney's and Sandler's.

But HJR 3 couldn't have made any difference in that suit. If a federal gay marriage ban violates the Fifth Amendment, then so does a state one.

Nor would any state have been granted the right to violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The question of whether any state government had the right to overrule the U.S. Constitution was settled - decisively - 150 years ago in the Civil War.

Judge Young's ruling makes clear in a couple of ways how costly Indiana's fight over same-sex marriage has been.

The first is the political one. The fight over HJR 3 was an ugly and painful one that pitted Hoosier against Hoosier. It divided families, friends and communities.

The judge's ruling makes it clear that the only votes that count now in the debate over same-sex marriage belong to the nine people who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

That means we Hoosiers tore into each other for no good reason.

But the more important cost is the human one.

Nicole Quasney is dying. In her last days, she and her spouse are fighting to have their union recognized and to hold their family together.

One of the loudest voices for banning same-sex marriages, Indiana Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, wrote in an oped column, "No one with a soul wants someone harmed or discriminated against for being gay."

But, as Judge Young has determined, that is precisely what a ban on same-sex marriage has done to Nicole Quasney and Amy Sandler. At a time when all their energies should be focused on making Quasney's last days as comfortable as possible, on saying goodbyes and of preparing their children for the trials ahead, they instead have to fight in court to have the same rights extended to other Hoosiers. At a time when they most need the strength and support that being part of a family provides, they have to fight for the right just to be a family.

The courts now are sending signals that such discrimination isn't legal or constitutional.

And many other Hoosiers wonder how any soul ever could have thought that such treatment was just or kind.

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


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