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Lawsuits challenge Indiana's gay marriage ban

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Three federal lawsuits were filed Friday against Indiana's same-sex marriage ban, boosting the number of legal challenges to the ban's constitutionality to at least five.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of five gay couples and three other plaintiffs in federal court in Indianapolis.

That suit contends that Indiana's gay marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment and asks a judge to declare it unconstitutional.

Ken Falk, chief legal counsel for the ACLU of Indiana, said he expects the growing number of federal lawsuits will be consolidated into a single challenge against the state's marriage law. He said the ACLU's challenge citing the 14th Amendment involves "complicated legal notions that when boiled down stand for two things — fairness and equality."

"And there is nothing more unfair and there's nothing more unequal in Indiana today than the fact that we deny loving couples the right to marry solely because of their sexual preference," he said at a news conference.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has said his office will defend against challenges to the state's marriage laws.

The ACLU's suit contends Indiana's gay marriage ban discriminates against the 13 plaintiffs, including two children whose parents are among the plaintiffs. It also says Indiana denies legal protections, tax advantages and other benefits to the couples, three of whom were married in states that allow same-sex marriage.

One of the plaintiffs is Midori Fujii, a Hamilton County resident who married her longtime partner, Kris Brittain, in California in 2008, three years before Brittain died of ovarian cancer.

Because Indiana doesn't recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in other states Fujii had to pay more than $300,000 in Indiana inheritance tax after Brittain's death. If Indiana recognized same-sex marriages, Fujii — like any Indiana widow — would have had to pay no inheritance tax, said her attorney, Sean Lemieux.

"When you've spent your lives together, saving, building assets, protecting yourself, to have that then go into taxes because your marriage is disrespected is not only emotionally insulting but financially harmful," he said.

Another suit was filed Friday by four lesbian couples who were married in states that allow same-sex marriages. Three of those couples have spouses who are police officers, while the spouse of the fourth couple is a retired firefighter.

Their suit seeks a permanent injunction ordering the state to recognize the couples' marriages as valid and lawful. It also seeks that the state's pension fund for police officers and firefighters extend the same pension and death benefits to same-sex spouses as opposite-sex spouses.

A third federal lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of a lesbian couple from Indiana who were married in Iowa and another woman who was also married in that state to her same-sex partner, but is now in the midst of a divorce.

A fourth lawsuit challenging Indiana's ban was filed on March 7, and another was filed on Monday by Lambda Legal, a national gay rights group, on behalf of three lesbian couples from Indiana.

Two of the plaintiffs in the ACLU's Friday suit — Tara Betterman and Melody Layne — were married in 2012 in New York and share a home in Indianapolis with Layne's 5-year-old biological daughter.

Betterman said that while she and Layne are recognized as legally married in New York state, they yearn to someday have the same rights as opposite-sex married couples in Indiana.

"There are a dozen such states where our marriage from New York is legal, and it's about time that it's recognized here because we would like to be married in our home state as well, in front of our friends and family who couldn't travel to New York to be with us," she said.

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  • Defend marriage
    This lawsuit is exactly why an amendment is needed to stop the attack on marriage. There are many ways to solve this instead of diluting the longstanding definition of marriage between man and woman. Grant these men and woman tax breaks to protect them. This would reduce the benefits/risk of legal action. Solve the problem in other ways instead of destroying the current definition of marriage. What would happen if we said that everyone should stop hetro marriage and instead marry the same sex? Where would our species be in 25 years. Can we at least acknowledge that there is a difference? Same sex marriage is not the same as hetero marriage and should not be defined as such. The state should defend to keep the definition as it is, or we will be worse off in the future with marriage between three woman, two men and two women, one man and two women, etc make your own definition.
  • Terry has hit on something there...
    Yes...has Terry hit upon the real point?...he noted that no one's personal life is changed because of this lifestyle choice...but attorneys do pretty well in these situations...and what profession ore the great majority of legislators, at all levels?...wait for it...yep...by all accounts, Law Schools are graduating way too many new attorneys, so the ones in the legislature are just making sure there is more work out there...smiley face!
  • Colossal Blunder
    What a colossal blunder on the part of the Indiana Legislature! Taxpayer money will be wasted fighting numerous lawsuits that benefit no one whatsoever, except Members of the LGBT Community. Whether you are for or against Gay Marriage you need to know that your personal life is not impacted in anyway if a Gay Couple gets married. You will get out bed each morning, go to work, return home, and trust me, your life will not have changed one bit. Every State Government, coast to coast, that has tried to fight Gay Marriage Reversals has spent millions of taxpayer dollars and still lost the battle. Human Rights is something we all scream about, when it is happening in Russia, Crimea, Syria, Iraq, and China, but we lose focus when it is something that will not harm us in any way here at home. Of course if you are an attorney, these lawsuits will pay for that new BMW or Bentley, so Human Rights Lawsuits are good for a select few.

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