Bil Browning

Indiana Won't Fight Civil Union Claims in Fair Tragedy

Filed By Bil Browning | October 04, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Alisha Brennon, Greg Zoeller, Indiana, marital status, New Jersey, state fair tragedy

While Indiana doesn't recognize civil unions and backwards legislators recently passed a constitutional amendment to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions, the state's Attorney General says he won't attempt to get the claims of lesbian victims' partners dismissed Fair_20111003_3420.jpgbased on their marital status.

Indiana's attorney general said he will not be the one to pick a fight over the rights of a Chicago woman whose same-sex partner was killed in the collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. But legal experts say lawsuits filed in the case are certain to have widespread implications for same-sex couples across the U.S.

Chicagoan Alisha Brennon entered into a civil union in Illinois with her partner, Christina Santiago, in June, shortly after civil unions became legal in Illinois. In August, Santiago was one of seven people killed when a storm blew apart an outdoor concert stage in Indianapolis.
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Indiana does not allow civil unions, and it does not recognize same-sex unions from other states. But Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will not make civil unions an issue as he defends the state from a federal case filed by Brennon.

The state "will seek dismissal of the entire case, but not on the basis of a civil union," Zoeller said in an email.

"We generally believe it will be up to the legislature to decide whether to rewrite the laws concerning liability and beneficiaries, and up to the courts to decide how to interpret those laws," Zoeller said.

The article goes on to say that someone will surely attempt that defense since there are multiple lawsuits against various defendants pending. One of the defendants or a judge will surely ask whether or not the couples' relationship is legally recognized in Indiana.

Northwestern University Law School professor Andrew Koppelman tells the Indianapolis Star, "It's an inevitable legal battle. It has to happen. They're going to give her money as this woman's spouse, so someone has to say whether you get to give it to her or not."

(Photo credit: My favorite Hoosier photographer Scott Barnes)


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