Same-sex couples married at the Bartholomew County Courthouse nearly a month ago are living in legal limbo.
Several maintain they are legally married, but Indiana isn’t recognizing the unions following appeals of a federal judge’s decision declaring Indiana’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
“I’m born and raised here, and my family is here, and I’m just not wanting to move anywhere else,” said Maddy Halloran, who wed Carolyn Cory in a ceremony at the Bartholomew County Courthouse on June 26.
“They (the clerk’s office) gave us a piece of paper that says we are married, and they stamped it and signed it. As far as I’m concerned, we are legally married and they (the state) should recognize that,” she said.
But after a June 27 stay was issued on the ruling, made two days earlier by U.S. District Judge Richard Young, Gov. Mike Pence’s chief counsel issued a memo to all state agencies saying same-sex couples married in the short window before the appeal would not be recognized. That includes the union of Halloran and Cory.
For now, those marriages have no legal standing before state agencies reporting to the governor’s office, according to the memo by Mark Ahearn. For example, the couples would not be recognized by the state as qualified to file jointly on state taxes.
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to recognize the marriages so the couples can receive federal benefits, which Holder already approved for couples undergoing similar circumstances in Utah and Michigan.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case Aug. 13.
In Bartholomew County, 19 marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples June 26 to 27, but only 14 submitted the necessary return-paperwork in time before the stay was handed down from the Court of Appeals. That left the marriages of five couples unrecorded.
Cory and Halloran, a couple for 35 years, say they continue to worry that legally married same-sex couples living in Indiana are not entitled to certain benefits given to heterosexual couples, such as end-of-life rights.
A rush to wed
Indiana law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the state has refused to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. Supporters of the status quo also have sought to have the definition included in the state constitution.
“We are more concerned about protecting our assets and protecting each other,” Cory said. “Anything we have accumulated we have worked for together.
“You also have to worry about whether the hospital will recognize you (as a spouse) if one of us were to fall ill. Basically, we are just wanting to protect each other (should something happen).”
Halloran said she was disappointed, although not surprised, by the Pence administration’s decision to seek the stay of Young’s ruling and dismiss the couple’s marriage as if it never even happened.
“That’s why we married in the hallway” outside the Bartholomew County clerk’s office, Cory said.
“With Pence in office, I knew it would happen, and I knew he was going to follow the religious side of it as opposed to the civil-rights side,” Halloran said.
Eric Malanoski and his partner, Jonathan Buckler, expect the appeals court to eventually rule in favor of Indiana same-sex couples who married in June.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Malanoski said.
Malanowski and Buckler, who live in Columbus, were the third same-sex couple to be married in Bartholomew County. The couple said they also anticipated the stay and the lack of legal recognition from the state. Knowing that, they said, they also decided to get married as quickly as possible.
‘Extremely small window’
Valerie Hollowell and Karen Greathouse also felt the pressure to marry before the short-lived opportunity was no longer available.
Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann performed their wedding ceremony June 26, the first day licenses were distributed to same-sex partners in the county.
“As soon as the ban was lifted, we knew as a couple we had an extremely small window to get this done,” Hollowell said.
And now that the state refuses to recognize their marriage, Hollowell said, it has led to frustration and confusion regarding financial issues and partner benefits.
“It causes a little strain on us,” she said.
Greathouse, who owns the Townhouse Cafe in Seymour, said that even though the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Indiana is not finished, she is grateful to see her home state get closer to giving rights to gay and lesbian couples.
“When I first entered my relationship with Val, I never imagined it would have happened in my lifetime. We now find ourselves in a place that we could move forward and progress,” Greathouse said.
Although the ruling is not expected to be handed down from the appeals court at least for another few months, Greathouse said she and Hollowell understand the reason for the delay. She said they hope court decisions will ultimately allow their marriage to be fully recognized.
“We respect the law, and we know that it is going to take time,” Hollowell said. “But to me, it is just about people wanting to be together and be respected the same as everybody else.”