Seventh Circuit Strikes Down Marriage Ban for Same-Sex Couples in Indiana and Wisconsin

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September 4, 2014
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In a unanimous 3-0 decision today, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down discriminatory marriage bans for same-sex couples in Indiana and Wisconsin. The decision comes less than two weeks after attorneys from Lambda Legal argued on behalf of five Indiana plaintiff couples in the case Baskin v. Bogan and attorneys from The American Civil Liberties Union argued on behalf of thirteen plaintiff couples from Indiana and Wisconsin.

Love Unites US: Indiana

The decision, written by Justice Posner, contained strong language highlighting the importance of marriage for the children of same-sex couples:

Because homosexuality is not a voluntary condition and homosexuals are among the most stigmatized, misunderstood, and discriminated-against minorities in the history of the world, the disparagement of their sexual orientation, implicit in the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples, is a source of continuing pain to the homosexual community.

Paul D. Castillo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal, said:

The court has affirmed the love and commitment our plaintiffs and thousands of same-sex couples in Indiana and Wisconsin have for each other. The unanimous decision also reinforces the importance of marriage for the children of same-sex couples, who shouldn’t have to grow up thinking their families are inferior to other families. Today’s ruling adds to the incredible legal momentum for marriage we are seeing in courts across the country; it is a joyous day for freedom and justice in the Midwest.

Baskin v. Bogan, was filed by Lambda Legal on March 10, 2014 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Shortly thereafter, Lambda Legal filed a motion seeking immediate relief for Niki Quasney, Amy Sandler and their two children ages 3 and 1. Five years ago, Niki was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, enduring multiple surgeries and years of chemotherapy. After nearly 14 years together, the couple married in Massachusetts last year. In two decisions issued in April and May, the court ordered the State of Indiana to recognize their out-of-state marriage. On June 25th, U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young ruled that Indiana’s discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Two days later, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s emergency motion to stay the freedom to marry for all Hoosiers achieved through Lambda Legal's victories in Baskin v. Bogan, and also consolidated the case with two other marriage cases in Indiana, Lee v. Abbott and Fujii .v Governor. After Attorney General Greg Zoeller attempted to block those victories, on July 1st, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order compelling the State of Indiana to continue to recognize the marriage of Lambda Legal plaintiffs Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney while the case proceeds.

Fujii v. Governor was filed on March 14, 2014 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, the national ACLU, and the Lemieux Law Office of Indianapolis filed, on behalf of six couples, a widow, and two children of same-sex parents. One of the plaintiffs, Midori Fujii, is a widow whose wife, Kris Brittain, died in 2011 after a two-year struggle with ovarian cancer. After Brittain’s death, under Indiana law Midori was considered a legal stranger and could not make decisions about Brittain’s funeral. Because their California marriage is not recognized in Indiana, Fujii was also required to pay more than $300,000 in state inheritance tax on all of the property that her wife left to her, including their shared home. If Fujii had been in an opposite-sex marriage she would have paid no inheritance tax on the property.

Wolf v. Walker, was filed in Wisconsin on February 3, 2014 by the American Civil Liberties Union, challenging Wisconsin’s discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of eight couples seeking the freedom to marry or to have their out-of-state marriages recognized. Two of the plaintiffs, Kami Young and Karina Willes of West Milwaukee, were legally married last year in Minnesota and have a newborn daughter. Only Young, however, as the biological mother, is recognized as a legal parent on the birth certificate.

Read more about the families in the ACLU’s cases here and here.

Read the press release.