A federal judge in Indiana on Thursday approved an agreement for the state to recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple while the state appeals a ruling overturning its same-sex marriage ban.
Veronica Romero and Mayra Yvette Rivera filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court this week asking a judge to order Indiana to recognize their Illinois marriage because Rivera has advanced ovarian cancer, reports the Northwest Indiana Times.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen acknowledged the agreement and stayed the case while Indiana appeals a separate ruling that struck down its same-sex marriage ban in June.
In the agreement, Indiana said it would recognize the couple’s marriage and, in the event of Rivera’s death, issue a death certificate listing her as married and recording Romero as the surviving spouse.
The Indiana State Department of Health also agreed to assist local health departments, funeral homes, physicians, coroners and others involved in completion of a death certificate to understand their duties in the couple’s case.
The agreement comes following an order in a separate federal case in which Indiana was ordered to recognize the marriage of another lesbian couple. That emergency order, issued by U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, applies only to Munster residents Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who also is fighting advanced ovarian cancer.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement that while he has a duty to defend the laws passed by the Indiana General Assembly, he must respect previous decisions by the courts.
“Our 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has previously made an exception to Indiana’s existing statute and recognized a plaintiff’s out-of-state marriage under similar, difficult circumstances.” Zoeller said. “In this new case, the stipulation both sides filed mirrors the 7th Circuit’s earlier approach.”
The challenge to Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban involving Sandler and Quasney is one of seven cases that have resulted in marriage bans being overturned in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and that have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court will conference on the cases on Sept. 29, and could decide to hear one or more of the cases in the coming months, potentially leading to a national ruling on marriage equality.