(Reuters) - Indiana must recognize immediately a terminally ill gay woman’s marriage to her partner in Massachusetts, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Young entered a temporary restraining order that requires the state to recognize the August 2013 marriage of Amy Sandler and her ailing spouse, Nikole Quasney, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009.
Quasney and Sandler, both 37, joined a pending challenge by several same-sex couples to Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage and ban on recognizing legal marriages of gay couples performed in other jurisdictions.
They asked Young in late March to enter an emergency order to force Indiana to recognize their marriage and, should Quasney die, require officials to issue a death certificate that lists Sandler as surviving spouse.
Quasney and Sandler were married in Massachusetts and live in Munster, a town in northwestern Indiana near Chicago, where they are raising two daughters born to Sandler through sperm from an anonymous donor, according to court papers.
Quasney has undergone multiple surgeries and aggressive chemotherapy since her diagnosis. The ban on recognizing same-sex marriages hinders her ability to seek medical treatment in Indiana because she does not want to go to hospitals that don’t consider Sandler her family, attorneys for the women said in court papers.
Federal judges in other states also have entered orders requiring states to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples wed in jurisdictions where gay marriage is legal.
Gay marriage is legal in 17 states plus the District of Columbia and that number would increase substantially if recent federal court rulings striking down bans in Texas, Michigan, Utah and other states are upheld on appeal.
Momentum has grown toward making same-sex marriage legal since the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that legally married same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits.
Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman