Same-sex couples married elsewhere but living in Indiana are in a legal limbo that needs to be resolved soon.
U.S. District Judge Richard Young on Thursday extended the preliminary injunction that requires Indiana to recognize the marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney. Their wedding was performed in Massachusetts. Quasney, of Munster, is terminally ill.
Indiana is fighting this ruling because state law currently defines marriage as male-female.
Young's ruling requires Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage so Sandler can be named as spouse on Quasney's death certificate.
There's not just a matter of paperwork involved. The preliminary injunction means Sandler will be able to make decisions, as the surviving spouse, that affect everything from the funeral arrangements to settling Quasney's estate.
"We are so thankful that we can move forward and concentrate on being with each other," Quasney said in a statement issued by Lambda Legal, the gay rights group that represented the couple in court. "Our time together and with our daughters is the most important thing in the world to me. I look forward to the day when all couples in Indiana have the right to marry."
When or if that day might come is anyone's guess. Judge Young's ruling applies only to Sandler and Quasney.
Federal court rulings elsewhere have struck down laws similar to Indiana's. Some, but not all, states are appealing those rulings.
"The court is not persuaded that, at this stage, Indiana's anti-recognition law will suffer a different fate than those around the country," Young wrote in his decision.
States regulate marriage and domestic relations, but the state and federal constitutions must be obeyed. Whether same-sex marriages must be recognized is one of the key constitutional law questions of the century.
This is a major culture shift for the nation, with polls showing rapidly growing support for recognizing same-sex marriages.
The Indiana General Assembly this session grappled with the issue of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, only to reject the clause that would have prohibited civil unions as well.
Even as the legislators deliberated on this issue, many of them expressed their hope that the federal court system would decide this instead.
They're right. This is a question of such importance that the U.S. Supreme Court must provide clarity. The high court needs to settle this once and for all to finally end the confusion.