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Affirming Stable Families
The Indiana Suit for Legal Marriage
by Indiana Civil Liberties Union
© 2003, ICLU

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) sued the state of Indiana on behalf of three couples for the right of same-sex couples to legally marry. This case, Morrison, et al. v. O’Bannon, et al. was launched on August 22, 2002.

The three couples are: Teresa Stephens, 45, and Ruth Morrison, 42, (partners since 1998); David Wene, 46, and David Squire, 36, (partners since 1998); and Charlotte Egler, 30, and Dawn Egler, 27, (partners since 1997, and they have a son). [For more on the long history of U.S. suits, please see our: Legal Marriage Timeline]

Currently, the Netherlands is the only place in the world to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples. [Please see our: Netherlands Legal Marriage].

The following rationale of “Frequently Asked Questions” — was prepared by the ICLU to support the launching of this case.

What is this law suit about?

It’s about fairness and equality. The Plaintiffs are three lesbian and gay couples who have committed to one another as spouses by entering into civil unions in the State of Vermont. With this lawsuit they seek a declaration that Indiana must follow its own laws and Constitution which require that these couples be recognized as spouses under Indiana law.

Why do these couples want their relationships recognized?

Same sex couples want to be spouses for the same reasons opposite sex couples want to be spouses. They want the security, which comes only from a legal union, for themselves and for the protection of any children they have or may have. They have established deep emotional and economic bonds and they need the structure and protection which only spousal relationships provide.

Doesn’t Indiana law ban same sex marriages?

Yes. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the marriage ban unconstitutional.

Isn’t this just another case of gays wanting special treatment?

To the contrary. This is precisely a case of gay and lesbian individuals wanting to be treated the same — to have the rights and the obligations connected with being a spouse. Those rights include — among others — the right to inherit, the right to make end-of-life and medical decisions for a loved one; the right not to have to testify in court against a spouse. Most importantly, it helps to clarify child custody arrangements in cases where one parent dies.

Can’t these couples protect themselves and their families through Wills and other documents?

For those couples who can afford them, documents can protect some rights. However, there are hundreds of protections and responsibilities which apply only to spouses. These include such things as being treated equally under tax laws, economic protections under worker’s compensation and wrongful death laws, being treated as a family unit for private insurance or employee benefit purposes. Expensive documents are an inadequate substitute for equality under the law.

Why should the State recognize relationships many consider to be immoral?

Choosing the person you want to be your spouse is a decision for each individual to make, not the State. Many may consider abusive relationships, interracial relationships or relationships between people of different religions to be immoral. Yet we would not permit the State to deny individuals in these relationships the right to be spouses if they so choose. The reasons the State of Indiana recognizes spousal relationships - accountability, responsibility and protection for families and children - apply with the same force to same sex couples as to opposite sex couples.

Wouldn’t this affect very few people in Indiana?

First of all, discrimination by the State is intolerable whether it affects one person or 1,000 people. Moreover, lesbian and gay couples live in every county in Indiana, working, raising families and contributing to their communities. According to the federal census conducted in 2000 there are more than 10,000 lesbian and gay couple households throughout Indiana — an increase of 428 percent over 1990. Bloomington ranks number five of the Top 25 metropolitan areas with gay and lesbian couple households. Indianapolis ranks in the top 1 percent nationwide of metropolitan areas with the most neighborhoods having heave concentrations of lesbian and gay couple households.

Why can’t the couples just live quietly, and not make such a fuss about their sex lives?

These three couples have been in stable relationships for a number of years. They value the stability and permanence offered within the institution of the family. They have joint finances, they own property together, they are contributing members of their neighborhoods and community, and hold themselves to friends and family as committed, loving spouses. Even so, they are denied fundamental civil rights, solely on the basis of their sexual orientation. Unlike heterosexual couples, who can marry even if they’ve only been acquainted briefly, these couples are barred by Indiana state law from formalizing their relationship in any legally binding manner.

Won’t this case destroy the sanctity of marriage?

No. This lawsuit is an affirmation of the importance of long term commitments and stable families, which the ICLU, these three couples, and most Americans hold as important community values.

© 2003, Indiana Civil Liberties Union

Indiana Civil Liberties Union
Price Building, 1031 East Washington St.
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202

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