Seventh Circuit Hears Oral Arguments Seeking Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Indiana and Wisconsin

August 26, 2014 12:00 am

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Chicago — The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in lawsuits seeking to strike down discriminatory marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. The three-judge panel included Richard Posner, Ann Claire Williams and David F. Hamilton. Attorneys from Lambda Legal argued on behalf of five plaintiff couples from Indiana and attorneys from The American Civil Liberties Union argued on behalf of thirteen plaintiff couples from Indiana and Wisconsin.

“As public support for marriage equality continues to swell across the nation, we are excited to be here today, making the case for Indiana and Wisconsin couples who simply want the freedom to marry and make that public, lifetime commitment to the ones they love,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “We believe that, every day, we are one step closer to that freedom being extended to all loving couples, and the ACLU will not stop working until we make marriage equality a reality in every state in the country.”

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 on behalf of six couples, a widow, and two children of same-sex parents. One of the plaintiffs, Midori Fujii, lost her wife, Kris Brittain, 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.

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.

“Courts across the country have ruled in favor of love, freedom and justice for same-sex couples, and we’re hopeful that this court will affirm our plaintiffs’ commitment to each other. Some of our plaintiffs are advanced in age, some have children, and some are battling extreme medical circumstances. They are just a small sample of Hoosier families that urgently need the protections of marriage as soon as possible.” said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. “The legal precedent for striking down discriminatory marriage bans is growing almost every week and with each victory, Indiana’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples becomes increasingly unjustifiable.”

Read more about the families in the ACLU’s case here:

Read more about the families in Lambda Legal’s case here:

James Esseks will be arguing for the American Civil Liberties Union in Walker v. Wolf. He is joined by Hans J. Germann, Gretchen E. Helfrich and Frank Dickerson from the law firm of Mayer Brown. Kenneth Falk, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana will argue in Midori Fujii et al v. Indiana governor et al.

Paul D. Castillo, Staff Attorney, and Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director, are handling the case Baskin v. Bogan for Lambda Legal. They are joined by Barbara Baird of the Law Office of Barbara J. Baird in Indianapolis, Indiana, as well as Jordan Heinz, Brent Ray, Melanie MacKay, Dmitriy Tishyevich and Scott Lerner of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

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